Titan Attacks! is a “what you see is what you get” alien combat game that draws a lot of inspiration from a number of arcade classics. Anyone who remembers pumping quarters into arcade cabinets or has spent any time with an Atari 2600 will immediately recognize the many references that are found throughout the game. Space Invaders, Asteroids, Galaga, and plenty of others have strongly influenced the look and design of Titan Attacks!.  But does a mash-up of a number of great games make for something that is even better? Or is this a case where more is in fact not better? What does Titan Attacks! do to improve on an already tried and true formula?

2014-05-05-184326

In Titan Attacks! you play as the last remaining tank commander in charge of defending the Earth against an alien invasion originating from the Saturn moon of Titan. Once the home world has been protected, you take the fight to your enemy and shoot your way through the Moon, Mars, Saturn, and eventually back to Titan. You will need to dodge falling bombs, capture parachuting aliens, and avoid nuclear explosions all while obliterating everything else on the screen. And (straight out of Space Invaders) if you’re able to destroy the flying saucer that zooms by at the top of the screen, you can win bonus prizes.

Each world contains a number of waves, some short and some not as short, that will end with a classic boss battle. The goal is to destroy the alien ships to earn cash which is then spent on upgrades to your tank to allow you to destroy even more alien ships. Then do it again. Destroy aliens. Get cash. Upgrade tank. Wash, rinse, and repeat. After you complete a world, your game and score get saved so you can always start the next level with the same upgrades and score you had after your first play through. You won’t have to start from zero if you decide to jump ahead and try to tackle a later world. This helps in building up your high score, which can then be compared to your friends or others around the world in the leaderboards.

2014-05-05-192229

As the game begins, the one frustrating thing you’ll first notice is how slow everything is. You can only fire once every few seconds. But since the aliens you’re fighting also move at a snail’s pace, you’re not at too much of a disadvantage. Fortunately things begin to speed up dramatically as the game progresses and your tank gets outfitted with much better equipment. This rapidly increases not only your ability to shoot down your enemy, but their ability to shoot back at you. This is when things can get a little chaotic. Unlike Space Invaders, the aliens in Titan Attacks! Don’t always move in a pre-determined pattern. Some move back and forth while others fly any which way around the screen. Some of the attackers will dive-bomb you while others just toss bombs.

This changes the game from one that’s about skillfully shooting down invading aliens to one that’s about just dodging what is being lobbed your way. I found myself rarely watching the action on the screen, but instead just focusing on not getting hit while I mashed the “fire” button. It seemed to be the only way to succeed. It also sucked a lot of the joy out of the game because even if you get hit, it doesn’t mean game over.

2014-05-09-082618

What Titan Attacks! does that is different than those classic arcade shooters is that it allows you to not only purchase better offensive weapons, but you can buy shields as well. Each shield you purchase allows your tank to absorb a hit. You lose the shield, but you survive to keep the fight going. This provides an extra layer of security, but it also takes away some of the tension. And then there’s the smart bomb upgrade, which will obliterate anything on the screen (except for that end level boss… and believe me, I tried). This little weapon can end a wave with the press of a button.

Speaking of buttons, let’s talk about the dead simple controls. You move left and right with the Left Stick or D-Pad. The shoulder buttons are dedicated to firing and launching your smart bombs, or you can use the face buttons instead. Just like the graphics, there isn’t anything too complex going on here.

Ah yes, those graphics. While Titan Attacks! gets a lot of its game design from 80’s arcade games, its 16-bit style graphics are a bit more modern. With bright and bold colors, the pixelated invaders look rather good on the Vita’s 5” screen. Since it is also a cross-buy game with the PS3 and PS4, you might wonder how well it looks on the big screen. As with most pixel art games, I find them to look best on the Vita. The smaller screen makes the each sprite appear more vivid and detailed. Blown up on a 50” TV, it looks really blocky.

2014-05-07-172713

The audio is also a retro inspired blast from the past. If you play the game with your eyes closed and just listen you will feel as though you’ve been transported to an arcade in the early 80’s. For me, the sounds alone evoke a sense of nostalgia for the golden age of arcades, even though I was just a small kid at the time. Along with the music, it’s probably my favorite thing about the game. It’s really well done.

My main gripe with Titan Attacks! is that once you get past the nostalgia (ooh, look! It’s a vector drawn asteroid straight out of Asteroids) there really isn’t a lot going on in this game. I’ve been pounding away at this game trying to find something deeper about the game, but I can’t. It is in fact “what you see is what you get.” There’s just not a lot there. Once you play through each of the worlds, you will head back to Earth and repeat everything again, this time with the enemies moving slightly faster. Once you get to the point where your ship is fully upgraded, everything dropped off a cliff for me. I could easily get through a level, and even if I did get hit a few times, I would have a war chest of cash to easily replace them. This made the game really tedious. It gets so monotonous that even the idea of chasing a high score isn’t appealing. I hate to admit it, but there were times when I was just trying to die in order for my game to be over. That’s not really the sign of a great game.

2014-05-09-084333

Curve Studios has done an admirable job of porting Puppygames’ Titan Attacks! to the PS Vita (as well as PS3 and PS4) but the lack of depth makes the game a short lived thrill ride. It has its moments when it is a very fun throwback to the games of yesteryear, but for the most part it comes up short. Should it show up as a deeply discounted bargain in a weekly sale, it’s worth a look, but other than that I can’t recommend it.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Presentation
Gameplay
Lasting Appeal
Execution
SHARE
Previous articleSparkle 2 releases next week
Next articleFirst Minecraft Vita Screen Surfaces
Brad is a video game enthusiast and family man. He's been gaming since the days of the Intellivision, and while that indicates he's been doing this for quite some time, he doesn't intend to quit anytime soon. Currently he's trying desperately to convince his daughter that there are more games than just Minecraft (unsuccessfully so far).
  • Buckybuckster

    Thanx for another excellent review Brad!

    Being a old school shoot’em up fan, I can say that I’m enjoying this update to the Space Invaders template. Not as good as any of the Space Invaders Extremes that came out a few moons ago and as Brad eluded to, somewhat light in the depth department. But if you’re in the market for a game to satisfy your taste for retro with a modern twist, Titan Attacks fits the bill nicely.

    It is a bit pricey for what it is so if you’re considering a purchase, it may be worth the wait for a sale or price drop before pulling the trigger.

    • Matt Dickinson

      I think it’s available for a dollar on Xbox Live (360), unless that’s a lesser version.

    • vongruetz .

      If you’re really in the market for something truly old school, check out the Arcade Essentials minis. Old school graphics, sound, and game play. And since they’re minis, they work on the PS Vita, PSP, and PS3.

      http://youtu.be/F4E_m5CrEt4

  • Matt Dickinson

    I liked this game, but I’m with you in thinking that once you’re powered up and have a lot of cash it’s too easy to just cheese your way through with bombs or lots of shields. Some of the bosses are pretty hard though. I got to about level 320 but want to take a break now.

    I liked the graphics, but so much more could be done with this kind of game, even if it stays true to a basic Space Invaders formula. It could have fantastic bosses, delirious bonus rounds, awesome music, all sorts of stuff. I guess I was just hoping for something more with it. As far as score systems goes I’m not convinced it’s a good one. I feel the same about Resogun, however. It’s a lost art, I think..

    • vongruetz .

      In that last screenshot in the review, you can see my score is around 7million and I had 21,000 in cash. The ship was maxed out, and each wave was easily taken out with a smart bomb. Once I got to this point, all joy was gone. It doesn’t take long to max out the trophies, and now you’re just score chasing.

  • I’m really enamoured with the art/sound-direction, but this being such an Indie game (and published by Curve) I think the conclusion of this review, ‘Should it show up as a deeply discounted bargain in a weekly sale…’ is probably exactly what’s going to happen, and because of that I’m going to wait, seeing as all their games have been crazy discounted.
    The criticisms seem valid, but they also seem like a blast to me. Getting crazy overpowered has always been my idea of the best kind of pay-off; makes me think of the Final Fantasy’s where you’d be so jacked up to take down the additional, 10x harder side-boss, and then go on to finish the game and have it be a cakewalk. I always liked that feeling though 😛