There are some games that just flatly refuse to go away. Despite making its debut in the arcades back in 1978, Taito’s Space Invaders is still doing the rounds today in one form or another officially or unoficially with clones, new interpretations of the seminal classic or games like Fruit Space trying to make a few minor changes to the game in the visual department…
The name of the game probably gives you the biggest clue as to where these changes lie – instead of destroying wave after wave of incoming alien invaders, instead you take control of a giant space pineapple (seriously, I kid you not!) and have to fend of hordes of invading fruit bowls. Apart from a few minor tweaks, the gameplay is basically Space Invaders and you’d think that you’d be in for something remotely entertaining just with quirky visuals but unfortunately the novelty factor wears off quickly once the reality of the game itself hits home…
The main key to Space Invaders was that it was far more than a straight-forward shoot-em-up. There was a hidden depth to it introduced with the limitations placed on the player only being able to fire a single shot at a time. The game also had an incredible tense atmosphere to it – something that had never been seen before in a game. The tension was unbelievable as you played, as it sped up continually seeing the invaders move ever closer towards you meaning that you had to make every shot count. Take that away and the essence of what made Space Invaders such a great game (and why it still works today) is gone and you’re left with a bland shooter.
So that’s what Fruit Space has done. They’re stripped the game down beyond the basics and left an empty shell behind that looks like Space Invaders but certainly doesn’t play like it. The gameplay takes the bullet hell approach and rather than a steady stream of bullets being fired at you from the alien fruit, there seems to be a never ending flow of oncoming ammunition heading towards you. While a single hit doesn’t destroy your exotic fruit, you do take damage and it’s game over once all of your health runs out.
Where Fruit Space fails dramatically is where it strays from the Space Invaders format. In the original, the waves of aliens move continually across the whole width of the screen, back and forth, dropping towards you once the reach the edge of the screen. Here, the aliens stop part way and then return along the same horizontal axis never moving closer to the player. Not only does this mean that there’s never any tension building up or any increased pressure to defeat the alien onslaught but it reveals a key flaw… blind spots. Either side of the screen is safe from alien attack so all you need to do is stay there and simply move in and out of the “play area”, fire a few shots to destroy your attackers and then move back to safety.
And this brings me to my next issue… firing. In Space Invaders tension was added to by the fact that you could only have a single bullet on screen at any one time. Whether this was down to hardware limitations at the time or not is irrelevant now, but it made for a fantastic gameplay mechanic. Here there is no limit so you could shoot an endless stream wiping out your attackers with relative ease. Bearing that in mind, it becomes incredibly easy to destroy entire columns of aliens but unusually the alien formation doesn’t continue moving along its horizontal path into the gap that you have just made – it’s as if the aliens are prevented from moving where others once were. Bizarre.
Sadly, that’s not the worst part of the game. That comes to the length of it and the difficulty level. It is incredibly easy and comprises of just three attack waves. Once you’ve completed these, the game ends suddenly. No looping with faster attack formations, no increased difficulty – just a message saying “You Win” and it’s game over. You could take your time to really make the most out of the money you have paid for the game but the reality is that you can get to the end of the game in under 90 seconds – and that’s defintely not getting value for the £3.39 asking price.
As with their past games, the controls left me curious as well. While the pineapple is controlled using the analogue stick, everything else uses the touch screen, including firing. To start the game you have to use the touch screen but this is hyper-sensitive and you have to select a very small area on the screen (as you also have to at the end of the game if you want to play again) but why there’s no option for using any button controls for anything is beyond me.
All the time playing this I kept trying to think of something positive that I could say about the game but I simply couldn’t think of anything. The idea of a bullet hell shooter variant on the Space Invaders theme could have worked really well if it wasn’t so poorly executed and so short-lived but as with everything from this developer the game is lacking in substance from start to finish. I can’t imagine any price point where this game would be acceptable and nothing short of a complete re-write could fix what is wrong with this title.
For the amount of play time that this game offers from start to completion, this is probably right up there as being one of the most expensive games ever written for the minutes of gameplay on offer and it’s arguably one of, if not the worst value for money title available on the PSN Store today. Buy this at your peril.
At A Glance
- Title: Fruit Space
- Publisher: Lightning Game Studios
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: N / A
- Cross Play: N / A
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 35Mb