Developer: Xona Games
Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Available On: XBLIG
Co-Op Mode: Local (4 players)
Price: 80 MS Points ($1)
Demo w/ Co-Op Available: No
Space Invaders first hit the arcade scene in 1978 and quickly took the world by storm. Within four years of its release, over $2 billion in quarters had been spent on this game in the U.S. alone. While the original release was a single-player only affair, later iterations, and imitations, added a co-op element to varying degrees of success. 30-years after Space Invaders’ initial release, the twin brothers of Xona Games have put together a game, Decimation X3, that is as much homage as it is refinement.
When you start playing Decimation X3, the first thing you’ll notice is the retro sounding soundtrack and the retro looking graphics. Pixels and primary colors abound, the start screen even includes a high-score board for you to measure your performance against; it really lends the game that feeling that you’ve just stepped up to an arcade cabinet. Four boxes prompt players to join in on the action and once you’ve, metaphorically, dropped your quarter into the slot, the craziness begins. In the original Space Invaders, a series of aliens, laid out in a 5x11 grid, rain death from above on your lone ship that fires back one bullet at a time while slowly descending closer and closer to you as you use the few “shields” you have to help protect you. In Decimation X3, a series of aliens laid out in differing patterns slowly descend towards your ship, but beyond that, things change.
The first noticeable difference is that there are no shields to help protect you against enemy fire, at first. This leads to the second difference from the original: as enemies are killed, they drop power-ups that range from increasing the number of bullets you fire in one shot to raising those familiar shields for some protection. These shields usually offer only a minimal degree of protection, though, as the number of bullets unleashed with each press of the button increases to a magnitude where it seems like a quarter of the screen is nothing more than a stream of death. You can also hold down the right bumper button to slow your speedy flight across the screen to help you dodge the incoming fire a little easier.
The impulse to just keep that fire button held down and hope that you get more of them than they get of you is one you have to fight a little bit. The aliens in this game are of a slightly more passive breed and won’t start firing until you do; an important element that particularly must be considered when facing off against the bosses (larger and more amped up versions of the regular enemies). Lining your foes up for the right shot before pulling the trigger can mean the difference between clearing a round, and falling victim to the invading hordes. Should you succumb, however, you have three lives to help see you through it all, which are added to once you score enough points for the obligatory 1up.
4-player shooter frenzy: the kinds of images we like to see
Of course, all of this is just an (admittedly) long set up for that four-player co-op play I mentioned earlier. More people means more bullets means better chance at survival, right? Yes, and no. The co-op in Decimation X3 is a little bit of a friendly competition affair. You see, those power-ups that enemies drop don’t get shared amongst the group when one player grabs it, so there’s a little bit of a dash and jostling to be the first to grab it so you can make your ship into more of a death machine. Lives and points are also individualized, so there’s also a little competition for kills to get the highest score/an extra life, though that particular aspect does make sense in the grand scheme of things.
Fortunately, too, the power-up issue is alleviated, to some degree, by something known as the “icon shower.” Killing enemies not only yields the occasional power-up and points, it also slowly fills a bar along the top that is simply labeled “shower.” When this bar is filled, true to the name, power-ups shower down from the top of the screen. Each player has his or her own shower bar so amongst the friendly competition comes a little bit of strategy in trying to stagger the release of these showers to the benefit of everyone so that all players can increase their potency. In a full “no shame” admission, the first co-op game I played, I was so focused on the game and the intensity of the action, that I actually had no idea whether lives were shared, who got what, or (at times) how my partner was doing. It’s a testament to the game that the action is so thrilling, that upon your first playthrough, you will simply not care about anything other than shooting down the enemy ships and getting as far as you can.
Many times, when we go back to the games of our youth, the experience now just does not hold up to the memories we have. Decimation X3 provides that experience we want. We are reminded of our gaming youth and given an experience that matches up with what we remember. It’s a special mix that many strive for, yet few achieve.
Decimation X3 is Geared Towards: Co-op fans that are looking for some of those more nostalgic memories from the likes of a Space Invaders inspired shooter
The Co-Op Experience: Four players team up to tackle invading alien ships; lives, power-ups and points are not shared but working as a team will get you further than look out for Number 1
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