REVIEW: 2022 Space Invasion
Title: 2022 Space Invasion
Platform: Apple iPhone
TL;DR: Control issues mar otherwise decent mobile space shooter.
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Reviewing 2022 almost seems unfair. After all, only the first 3 missions of the game are currently available, though developer Maysalward promises that the others (you can see the “locked” missions on the level select menu in sad, unfriendly red text) will open up with future updates. That said, I’m going to review what’s available right now; I just wanted you to be aware that what I’m playing is not technically a complete game. Still, it’s the full, launch version. I’m reviewing the 2022 Space Invasion experience that is available to all people, right now, for free on your iPhone or iPad. As we live in The Update/Patch Era of gaming, this is the new reality for many, many apps. With that small disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to the goods (and bads)!
2022 Space Invasion is a throwback to the days when you’d plunge quarter after quarter into an arcade cabinet in order to fight an entire swarm of alien beasts with one tiny ship. These were approachable, difficult, addictive games…you know, like any self-respecting arcade experience should be. The space shooter is one of those classic gaming genres that still commands respect today, long after its heyday.
What Maysalward has accomplished is a relatively straightforward, loving mobile homage to the space shooter…with an occasional Star Fox twist. Each of the 3 missions available at this time are broken down into multiple stages. You’ll navigate your ship through each stage, blasting away at the unending swarm of enemy ships and “boss” ships that block your progression at the end. Missions 1 & 2 are top-down, old school. Mission 3…we’ll get to that.
Along the way, you’ll earn in-game money and – if you’re perfect – bonus stars, which can be cashed in for various ship/engine/weapon upgrades. Stars are hard to come by, and the items for which you can cash them in are a touch beyond your reach. This is where Tapjoy comes in, reminding you that, yes, you are playing a FREE iOS game.
You can “purchase” bonus stars by signing up for various sites and services on a Tapjoy menu. Some of the actions requested will earn you only a few stars, but signing up for Netflix (new subscribers only), for instance, will earn you nearly 2,000 of the things. That’s a nice chunk of star change, but your star-buying mileage will vary depending upon how interested you are in clicking on ads and signing up for services just to unlock a new ship option.
I’ve unlocked two more-powerful ships and earned some stars in-game by replaying the first mission over and over again without missing any enemies. It’s relatively quick once you know what’s going on, and the action remains challenging enough as the stages progress.
Mission 2 is tough, and the end-boss – a sneering, toothy ship ship boasting two monstrous machine guns and the ability to dissipate into an electrically-charged mist and attack you with different beams from all around the screen (yikes, he leaves the upper third!) – definitely took me several tries.
My current ship (the “Double G”-lasered Azmir, $15,000) is more than adequate for the missions available at this time. You can upgrade from the original ship to the second-tier Petra in relatively short order, but any boost in firepower and speed absolutely help you make it through the more intense parts of Mission 2. You’ll have to put yourself in harm’s way frequently to collect energy orbs dropped by some destroyed alien vessels, and you’d better not miss any…or you’re failing that stage the second you reach the end.
Mission 3 is where things get really interesting, as that Star Fox twist I mentioned comes into play. [DISCLAIMER: Before I’m accused of comparing 2022 Space Invasion TO Star Fox, know that I’m only speaking in stylistic terms. Star Fox is a masterpiece, and this is 2022 Space Invasion for your iPhone.] This mission takes you inside the alien base, in a behind-the-ship, “3D” perspective that reminds you of those inside-the-alien-base, behind-the-ship, tight corridor sequences in Nintendo’s beloved classic. It’s a welcome change, and it works just as well as the 2D stages in all possible regards.
I say it that way because neither the 2D nor 3D stages work well in all possible regards. The common problem with 2022 is that, whether you’re playing a top-down or behind-the-ship stage, you’re at the mercy of the controls. The controls in this game are not terrible. It’s playable. But, face it, on-screen faux pads/button controls are a wonky, slippery crapshoot, and the “tilt your device to steer and shoot by tapping a space bar-like fire button along the bottom of the screen” alternative Maysalward so kindly included isn’t much better.
No matter which play style you choose, it’s never perfectly smooth. The ship never seems to respond exactly how you want it to, which is kind of a big deal in tense situations that require a bit more precision. This problem is especially pronounced during the stages of Mission 3, during which you’ll be seeking out and shooting down the power cells of the alien base as you careen through the gray, metallic, box-strewn corridors.
Also, pro-tip for Mission 3: Most of the “obstacles” in your path, from walls to boxes to more walls, can be avoided simply by staying at the highest possible point on the screen. Until you reach a section with taller obstacles that requires you to wind through a little bit (not nearly as frequent as long, box-and-wall-filled corridors), you really won’t have to move much from top-and-center position. Seriously.
I also wish your ship would TURN every once in awhile. Even if it was just a quick, canned animation that shifted the camera or showed the ship winding around a corner on occasion, then put the camera RIGHT BACK into its usual third-person, behind-ship position before handing the controls back over to you.
I know it’s a sci-fi game and shouldn’t be taken with “reality” in mind, but it feels silly not to veer off the straight course even once during 3 stages in the same base. Just a bit of visual pizazz, maybe to give you a blink/finger-stretch break every so often. Just thinking out loud.
The stages aren’t long enough to get too dull or repetitive, and there are the occasional up-and-down-based sections peppered in throughout Mission 3 to spice things up and make you weave around a bit, but…perhaps owing to genre conventions, you’re only ever really going one direction: forward.
My main problem: When trying to blast the power cells in the alien base of Mission 3, you’ll occasionally have to veer just to the right or left of the usual down-the-corridor path. (Don’t worry, you’ll be getting right back on to it.) Steering over to them is an absolute bear. Your ship doesn’t glide smoothly to the right just because you’re steering it to the right. The on-screen or tilt controls are jerky and slow, and you’ll often miss your target because you simply can’t steer your ship over to blow it up.
What’s more, sometimes when you do make it over to the right or left (a Herculean task when you’ve only got a few seconds to pull off what should be a pretty easy maneuver – y’know, MOVE TO THE RIGHT OR LEFT WHEN I TELL YOU TO), you’ll blast your target and have only moments to steer back to the straight-and-narrow before you’re slammed into a wall. And it’s just as big a pain to lug your super-advanced spaceship back over to the center as it was to get it 2 feet away from it.
The janky controls really grab me by the base of my snarglies. It’s a different iOS experience, and absolutely meatier than any casual title you’ll see the rubes playing during long elevator rides. It’s addictive enough to keep you coming back, but those controls don’t get any better. I still think 2022 Space Invasion is deserving of your attention, but know that you’ll be fighting the controls from time to time, especially in Mission 3, and that will get on your nerves. Your patience level/dedication to finishing the mission so you can write up your review will determine how much of a turn-off this is. I have yet to upgrade my engine, but I don’t think that’s the issue. It’s the inability to slow down (you could do that in Star Fox) or precisely steer your ship. Even with the worst ship, I should be able to move a few feet to the left without fearing that doing so will result in an instant death…which it usually does.
Otherwise, the game looks nice for an iOS app. The textures are what you’d expect, the enemy designs are pretty click (love the look of that vicious Mission 2 boss), and the ship designs available are cool. Boss ships even show battle damage as you blast away at them! I dig my current, orange ship…and I’ve definitely coveted the stronger ships you can only unlock with stars. The music is suitable for the genre, though nothing I’ve been humming in shower, exactly.
2022 Space Invasion is out there, right now, for free. You will encounter the same control and difficulty issues I encountered. You will be frustrated by Mission 3, in the wrong way. You’re not losing because you can’t pull off the necessary movements; you’re losing because the game’s controls won’t allow you to pull off those movements.
I hope maybe future updates tighten up the steering (or maybe loosen up is what needs to happen), because I’d be interested in seeing future levels and finding out how the “story” ends. These alien invaders have come “17.3 billion light years” to mess with me. I’d like to repay them with interest for their troubles.
PEW! PEW! PEW!
- Arcade-style alien blasting is still fun
- It’s FREE!
- Mixing of top-down and 3D/behind-the-ship perspectives
- Unlockables that actually are desirable and impact your progress
- Some cool enemy designs
- Seriously, why won’t my ship keep going right when I’m steering right?
- Some enemies zip in at you too quickly, a little cheaply
- Why release with only 3 missions?
- I know I didn’t pay for it, but Tapjoy makes me feel a bit dirty…
2022 Space Invasion is rated “4+” in iTunes, meaning “no objectionable material.” It just might be a bit tough for youngsters, and you need to make the call as to whether you want your child murdering space creatures without first asking them why they’re mad and maybe trying to work out differences peacefully beforehand. Their space blood is on your hands, mom and dad…even if there’s no actual, visible space blood.