Full disclosure: A review copy of Space Invaders was provided by Buffalo Games.
Alright, another round of reviews. I’m having a slow writing week, unfortunately, so I have No Idea when this one is going to come out. Most of August is / was Kickstarter games, so I would assume that this one’s best bet is late August / early September, but who knows. Time is an illusion, etc. I assume y’all love these rambly asides, which is why I usually write them last. Fun times. Anyways, this week, I’m taking a look at Space Invaders, which appears to be a reskin of Flip Ships, a title I previously reviewed from Renegade Game Studios. Flip Ships has since left stock (I assume for good), so, here we are. Let’s dig right in.
In Space Invaders, there are invaders. From where? You’re not sure. But they’re here to destroy your city, so you have to put a stop to them as quickly as possible! Assemble your finest ships and prepare to start blasting if you want to have any hope of taking down these multicolored pixelated nightmares. Thankfully, you’ve got a plastic launcher and a dream in your heart, and that will hopefully be enough. Each round, players will launch Blast Tokens at Invaders to try and avoid taking too much damage while also trying to eventually take down the UFO at the top. As you take damage, you’ll unlock more Blast Tokens and more powerful abilities, and you’ll need to give it everything you have if you want to come out alive. Will you manage to take down these dastardly invaders? Or is Earth doomed?
Setup / Gameplay
Setup and Gameplay are roughly identical to Flip Ships, with one critical addition, this launcher:
Say farewell to the bygone days of accidentally flicking the table instead of the disc because you’re just not all that coordinated. This is the future. But yeah, if you’re looking for Setup / Gameplay instructions, you’re largely doing the same thing as you did in Flip Ships. There is a board, now, but beyond that the game plays the same.
Player Count Differences
For this one, there aren’t a ton, just like the original Flip Ships. You’ll note that there’s a reverse side to the board for two players, and at two, you start with all three of your Level 1 Blast tokens, so that you can still have six shots (rather than four, to start). I would say that the game improves a bit with increased player count, both because it takes some of the pressure off of players by not forcing them to be the brunt of the shot attempts, and it also presents players with more available abilities (and more potential shots per round, since you gain four new shots every time you pass a threshold at four players). These are generally good things, I’d say, but they don’t make the game worse if you’re playing with two (except for maybe the thing about you having to be 50% of the shots taken), so I’m not entirely convinced that there’s a huge difference between various player counts. You do have to flip the board over, so, if that’s more than you want to do, then you’re stuck at whatever player count you started with. This is all to say that I don’t really have a major player count preference. Having more players does help if you have, uh, co-players that aren’t quite as masterfully dexterous, though, so there’s that.
- Some early damage is pretty key to success. You probably won’t be able to avoid taking damage anyways unless your entire team is just A+ on top of their game, but taking some damage early will help you work your way into the Level 2 abilities, which can be huge. Plus, you unlock extra shots per turn. If you manage to get through the entire game with only your Level 1 tokens, I mean, that’s impressive, but, unlocking the more advanced abilities will help you be increasingly flexible.
- You should think a bit about scoring, I guess? It doesn’t super matter, but it’s fun. I just like that they added it, even though it’s completely pointless. I got 890 points the last time I played. Does that mean anything? Nope! But if you’re shooting for score, keep in mind that the green buddies are worth more points, and saving your health matters. Also, higher difficulties can yield more points!
- I particularly like the abilities that let you move your shot or change the target; they’re useful! My favorite thing about them is the ability that lets you redirect your hit if you hit successfully. I hit two Invaders at the same time, twice, so I redirected the second shots to two adjacent Invaders and basically wiped out a huge chunk of the board with only one player! They’re great. Try to make those shots count, when you can.
- Sometimes a near miss is actually beneficial! The tokens that let you use the Blast Waves are actually better if you slightly miss your target, but good luck with that. You can potentially redirect your shots to hit other, more vulnerable targets if you slightly miss, which is good. There’s also an ability that lets you take a free shot at the UFO if you miss hitting any Invaders, which can turn a potential bad turn into a much better one!
- I generally find that it helps to get a few practice shots in with the launcher before launching your more valuable tokens. I really like using the L2 ability that lets you relaunch the token as my first shot, because it gives me a chance to calibrate my aim and my power before I just let the token fly off into the night. Launching your more valuable tokens first might mean that you’re wildly off, so, getting some early practice can go a long way.
- Don’t forget to go after the UFO. This is pretty key, since you need to do that in order to eventually win. A lot of players kind of hold off on the UFO to deal with the Invaders, which, reasonable, but you do eventually need to destroy the UFO, or it will wipe you out during the Final Assault. You can wait until the final round, but that really relies on your players getting pretty solidly consistent against hitting the UFO with little-to-no practice. Try to take the occasional shot at the UFO so that you can get a sense of how to hit it, when it counts. Or, rely on your abilities and your luck to carry you through it. Either works, being real.
- Try to stave off the Final Assault, if you can. Or, at least, try to make sure you’re not accidentally activating the pre-Final Assault round (where Invaders all immediately attack and do double damage) before you’re ready. The last game I played, I only had three or four Invaders left, which was manageable, but if you’re hitting 6 and you’re not prepared, you can lose the game pretty quickly.
- Make sure that your blast token is centered within the launcher. This is not entirely strategy, but it’s just a good thing to check. Having it off-center on the launcher can lead to some weird hangs as the token flies.
- Check the launcher before you fire; it can occasionally get a bit off as you play during the game. This isn’t quite the same thing as the token being off; the launcher itself can occasionally be a bit tilty. Just something worth keeping an eye on.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The launcher is a very good add! I think a big challenge for Flip Ships players was that it was pretty difficult to get the rhythm of launching the token properly when you were just using your hands. Here, it’s much easier to be consistent and get used to the game. Best of all, if you truly hate it, you can just go back to using the old Flip Ships rules! No harm, no foul. Plus, it looks kinda goofy and arcade-y, and I like how it fits into the theme.
- The retro arcade elements (differentiating between the Invaders based on the old sprites, the scoring, the art) really works here! It gives the game a certain ambiance, and I kind of love it. It’s just a very good-looking game, honestly. I’m not, say, head-over-heels for the retro arcade aesthetic, but I do like how well it’s implemented, here. The cards against the board are reminiscent of the actual arcade screen, the UFO looks amazing, all of that. They really went for a “let’s make a very authentic Space Invaders game” and Flip Ships just kind of played into that perfectly. It’s a great matchup.
- The UFO looks hilarious and I love it, also. It’s a UFO, for sure, but I just love that it’s kind of a hoop, kind of a bucket, and kind of a UFO. It does it all.
- Adding a board was a very smart decision; I am glad I don’t have to think about how the cards are spaced relative to each other anymore, even if it’s now much harder to successfully hit four Invaders at the same time. I definitely was putting the Invaders too close together when I was playing Flip Ships, so, it’s nice to have some spacing that’s kind of explicit, rather than the implicit stuff that I was doing previously. Honestly, the board looks good, too! The outlining is a bit too subtle in certain lights, but that’s not the worst thing.
- Largely, this is Flip Ships with a new coat of paint, and I really liked Flip Ships, so, that’s good for me. There’s not really that much changed beyond the aesthetic, so if you enjoyed Flip Ships or always wanted to try it, I mean, here it is. I would assume it came out long ago enough that it’s out of stock (which is also how I assume that this whole license deal is possible), so, yeah. I enjoyed the game enough that I’m glad it’s back in stock in some form.
- This is the exact kind of cooperative dexterity game you want to play. There’s tension; there’s drama; there’s cheering; there’s heartbreak. I love this stuff. God, missing shots or making shots is met with such a reaction when we play. It’s a whole mood. Hitting two is amazing, activating your ability is amazing, and dunking the UFO is amazing. Space Invaders does a great job of making even the worst turn feel cool, provided you’re at least still partially on the board in some capacity. If you’re just way off in the weeds, then yeah, that won’t feel as good, but I think that the launcher makes it decently easy to try and improve.
- I didn’t mention this earlier, but I also think Space Invaders is super cleverly designed in that there’s never a particularly overwhelming number of ships on the board; that limit of 16 helps make things routinely somewhat manageable, and it becomes a bit easier (sort of) to hit ships that are closer to you. The game isn’t easy, per se, since the ships will hit you and cycle back, but I appreciate that ships cycling back takes them off the board while exposing you to new threats. The game is well-designed around letting players take some time to get adjusted (and slough off some hits that aren’t too terrible) while still giving them some wins along the way. As you take that initial damage, you also get stronger, which helps get the game to a balance point. The real question is whether or not that balance point can be reached before the game spins too much damage against you, and that’s a fun tension!
- The launcher is also a bit fiddly! It’s not a perfectly made implement; the launching part can get ever-so-slightly off-center, or you can hit it harder or softer than you expected, which can lead to weird outcomes. That may not be what you want. I do still think it’s better than using my finger to flip the ships like I used to, though, so the launcher, while fiddly, earns a Meh rather than a con.
- Black cards always run the risk of damage unless you sleeve them, but sleeving them would alter the texture, which may lead to weird outcomes? Just remind players to slide the cards off the table, rather than trying to pick them up and dent the edges. Thankfully, this game also isn’t particularly burdened by players knowing what cards are coming next, so, this isn’t a particularly huge deal.
- Also, the cards are kind of flimsy. I think this has largely been common across the Buffalo Games titles; I’ll be interested to see if that’s the case with Summer Camp, where the card quality matters a lot more.
- I do really miss that Kwanchai Moriya art from Flip Ships. Kwanchai Moriya is one of my absolute favorite board game artists (I’d name more names, but Beth Sobel will do a violence against my person if I praise her more than I already have, so, Kwanchai is all you’re getting in this review), so, I do love that art that Flip Ships had. It was bold, dynamic, colorful, and extremely orange. You don’t see a ton of extremely orange art, these days. I mean it was kind of a red-orange, I suppose. But yeah, that’s all pixelly art, now. Don’t get me wrong, it works for Space Invaders, here; I just kind of miss the original art style.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I mean, I keep saying that Space Invaders is largely the same as Flip Ships, a game I already like, so it’s not terribly surprising that I quite enjoy Space Invaders as well! I think my enthusiasm for Flip Ships has calmed, a bit, over the years, so I would probably say that my thoughts on Space Invaders and Flip Ships are largely equivalent, for what that matters. The art in Flip Ships is more to my liking, but Space Invaders has a board and launcher, which makes it easier to set up and play. Both good, but different. This review deals more in the here and now, in which there’s mostly only Space Invaders still around. Space Invaders is a delightful dexterity game, and one I’ve quite enjoyed getting to visit ( / revisit, effectively). There are a lot of things to enjoy! The art style is pleasant, the theme is entertaining, and the gameplay really evokes the feeling of a never-ending cascade of ships, which fits well. I particularly like the way that having a variety of different player powers change how you play on your turns across multiple games. Some games you’re hitting everything and directing your successes to hit more, and others you’re trying for those near-misses so that you can use your bonus powers to choose who you hit more selectively. Plus, again, really can’t emphasize how much easier it becomes to practice when you have a launcher. I hit almost the exact same spot on the board twice in one turn! It was amazing. Space Invaders just also ends up being an exciting experience, but that’s partially because I spend the time in between my turns cheering on my co-players. It’s really the dream. If you’re looking for an exciting cooperative dexterity game or your dream is just to continually dunk into a small UFO-shaped trash can, you might enjoy Space Invaders! I certainly have.
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