Titan Attacks! Review

The name “Titan Attacks” might be a bit misleading to some. Amongst numerous games that have made use of the word “titan”, including Puppy Game’s very own and more appropriately named Revenge of the Titans, Titan Attacks! is simply a straightforward Space Invaders game built for the modern indie era. Bold neon pixel art mixed with solid shooting flair and dash of current video game trends encapsulate what this bit-sized arcade title – now brought over to the 3DS from Steam and PlayStation platforms – has to offer.

The governing factor that separates Titan Attacks! from most other Space Invaders clones is its monetary progression system. After each completed wave, players are granted access to the in-game shop where they can purchase upgrades such as shields, fire power, bombs and add-ons. The game’s pacing does a commendable job in ensuring that its difficulty matches the amount of bounty money you’re rewarded with for every ship destroyed so that trips to the shop are never without the need to make thoughtful decisions. Do I dump all of my money into a rocket launcher add-on, or save cash to replenish my shields when needed?

Despite the novel upgrade system to the Space Invader formula, Titan Attacks! doesn’t stray too far away from the original concept by including spread shots and homing missiles like other shmups. Your weapons still fire in a straight line, which always demands a conditioned skill set as alien formations quickly move from classic column/row patterns to loop-de-loops and dive bombing tactics. It’s easy to lean into these encounters with a spray and pray approach, however earning in-game bonuses takes a mindful trigger finger at first. As usual, passing flying saucers offer up presents such as temporary shields, cash, and superguns – all worthwhile bonuses that become more gratifying as the game gets tougher and tougher. Hostile ships, on the other hand, frequently attempt to offer an interesting wrinkle that take the form of falling wreckage that rewards skill points when shot, and parachuting aliens that grant small amounts of cash when captured.

These features, particularly the descending aliens, are better appreciated in the early game where the action is more manageable and your tank’s firing rate isn’t quite as high. But as the stages get more intense, and the stakes more desperate, you’ll quickly forgo the effort of capturing the aliens and shoot them down instead (especially knowing that allowing them to make a complete descent actually costs you money). Because of this, Titan Attacks! eats its own tail by forcing the player to develop a “Screw it. Kill everything!” mentality, and thus the moment-to-moment gameplay fades into just another Space Invaders clone.

Titan Attacks! is short, yet offers a fair challenge. All 100 stages are broken up into five planets that function as checkpoints that you’ll get thrown back to if your tank is destroyed; that is if you haven’t abused the Save & Quit feature in each level that allows you to pick up from the last save point if you restart the software completely. But you’ll face no judgment here; the mothership bosses can be a real bitch. Further mileage can be extracted from farming enough money to max out all of your upgrades, which will likely only happen in the game’s automated New Game Plus. I can’t understate how satisfying it was to effectively wipe out an entire fleet of ships in a fraction of the time that it took me during my early venture through Titan Attacks!.

But the buck stops there.

In the wake of recent debates regarding the “value proposition” in video games, Titan Attacks! falls on the unfavorable side of this argument with only a single mode. Moderately skilled players can burn through all five planets in little more than a few conservative sessions. And once you’ve reached the limit of all possible upgrades for the tank, it’s tough to make a case as to what more can be extracted out of Titan Attacks!. Sure, there are leaderboards, but that’s never a good argument when a game is lacking in various other modes and features.

In regards to 3DS specifics, there’s little that this version has to offer because there aren’t any to be had. 3D support is (understandably) non-existent, and social features such as StreetPass don’t really have a place here either. But if anything, this is a weaker portable version with the obvious lower resolution, as well as less display options for some reason. The slick soundtrack from other versions of Titan Attacks! is also absent, which gives the game less of an identity on 3DS, unfortunately.

Titan Attacks! is a soundly executed Space Invaders clone. That in and of itself doesn’t say much in the context of copycats over the past three decades, but the added progression system, and the manner in which it’s paced throughout the game’s 100 levels succeed in exactly what they set out to do. The game is incredibly light on content on 3DS however, with only one mode and a short mileage on the tank’s upgrades that leave much to be desired. There are more interesting Space Invader nods out there, but that doesn’t take away from what Titan Attacks! has to offer.

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