Arkanoid vs Space Invaders follows hot on the heels of Puyo Puyo Tetris as yet another mashup of classics, this time with the gameplay elements drawn from two arcade titles of yesteryear - Arkanoid with its block-busting Pong-esque gameplay, and alien blasting Space Invaders action that needs no introduction. Both are classics, and both are hugely addictive in their own right, with Space Invaders in particular having stood the test of time better than, well, nearly ever other game ever.
The big question is, of course, how does this medley of ingredients come together. The answer: for the most part, pretty well. AvsSI takes the basic foundations of both titles, and using their key features, makes a new and fully-functioning game that's deep in terms of mechanics, fun to play, and surprisingly challenging.
Mechanically, it's a simple mashup. The Vaus from Arkanoid is a paddle that scrolls left and right (and to a limited extent, up and down, but only within a small area at the bottom of a screen) that you use to reflect projectiles back upwards at a mixture of blocks and space invaders. In essence, it's that simple, although there are a lot of mechanics that pop up to add a bit of friction, and some features built in to help you through the more challenging levels.
In terms of challenge, it doesn't take long before things start getting tricky. Most notably, there's a timer that winds down as you progress, but that's only the start. There are, for example, blocks that can't be destroyed, and others that have layers that need to be stripped before the block underneath can be removed. You can shoot a trigger that changes impervious blocks into destructible ones, but often these are in hard to reach places and hitting them requires an element of skill. Mix all that together - hard to hit targets with bullet proof protection and limited time to hit them - and things can get a little frustrating from time to time, especially during the boss battles.
Shooting blocks and aliens sends down skill boosts and attack bonuses that need to be caught. The skill boost changes dependent on the character you select, for example, one of them gives your Vaus additional length for a time, another fires additional shots. The attack bonus, on the other hand, builds up over time, and once a meter on the side of the screen is full, attack mode is initiated. The timer stops for a short period and attack mode is initiated, during which time you can fire an arrow (from a bow, no less) that ricochets off the walls and the ceiling, giving you an option to take out invaders or blocks that had previously evaded you.
The titular space invaders fire down various projectiles, and different attacks are sent back up the screen in different directions depending on where on the Vaus you make contact, which gives you a chance to direct your shots, but only to an extent, because when it gets hectic - and at times it gets really hectic - sometimes you only have time to move the Vaus into position to deflect a projectile, and where it fires is often very much in the lap of the digital gods. Each level gives you a certain number of either aliens or blocks that need to be destroyed, and sometimes hitting the last targets, especially when they're moving, can be a real effort, frustrating even. Making matters worse, and this may well be hardware dependent and newer devices than ours might fare slightly better, but the load times when restarting a failed level are too long, and it takes too long to get back into a game.
After a couple of hours, the challenge ramps and a typical level will take several attempts. You earn gold coins as you play (they drop alongside projectiles and bonuses) and for both attempting and completing levels, and these can, in turn, be spent on bonus abilities to be used in the next round. For example, you can elongate the Vaus for the whole round, get an extra attack mode shot with the bow at the end, or increase the potency of your attacks. This almost feels like a mechanic that was intended to be a free-to-play feature, and we've seen other games give you these paid-for assists when the going gets tough. However, in this case and much to our delight, there was not a single microtransaction in sight. Could they have been a touch more generous with the gold? Maybe, but we're still glad they decided to make this a paid game and not a free-to-play money pit.
All told we've enjoyed Arkanoid vs Space Invaders, and it has to be considered a successful experiment. If you're a big fan of either game, then it's certainly worth picking it up. The fusion of mechanics works well, and there's a huge amount of content to work through (we've been playing for several hours and there are still plenty more left to tackle). While it might be hard to argue that combined they better the original respective concepts, there's still enough here to satisfy those looking for some nostalgic arcade action on their mobile.
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