There is no greater way to honor your most revered inspiration than with a bona fide tribute, and both Puppygames and Curve Studios shoot for the stars with Titan Attacks, a clear preserver of the old-school, intergalactic arcade shooter. The game’s inspiration is pulled directly from retromania, taking many cues from classics like Space Invaders and Galaga. Both simplistic and archaic by design, this faithful little Cross-Buy title pays homage to some of the most cherished contributors to its genre, but without trying to enhance the formula with something unique of its own.
Right from the start you’ll take notice of the game’s familiar dressing, from the laser-filled skies to the 8-bit sounds. Much like in its pixelated ancestors, you captain a single vehicle that serves as Earth’s protector against extraterrestrial invaders from the starry skies above. This ultra-familiar portrait does little to impress, but thankfully the addictive, score-chasing objective and reflex-dependent gameplay still remains very much intact.
This is still a fixed shooter in which you can only maneuver your vehicle on a horizontal plane, and this is still largely about racking up points by obliterating enemies that advance towards the bottom of the screen. Where Titan Attacks attempts to stray from the formula is in its combo system and upgrade economy. Certain enemies and bonus saucers will provide you with money, which you can rightfully use to purchase upgrades from a screen that appears after every wave. These are generic improvements that enhance both the offense and defense of your space tank, i.e., increased fire rate, artillery add-ons, and shield slots. While not wholly original, it does provide the game with a much-needed reward system, albeit a trivial one.
The game also sports a combo system that brings the competition to all high-score seekers. Your combo counter will only increase if you wipe out an alien wave without getting hit. This number racks up after every flawless wave and caps out at nine, but it will drop to zero the moment your space tank takes a hit. The benefit of sustaining a healthy combo counter not only affects the score multiplier, but also increases the amount of money you receive for upgrades. The frustration of maintaining your combo will challenge you in later stages when gunfire gets much too frenzied and near impossible to evade, but this system provides a much-needed oomph that keeps your twitch reflexes in tune.
With respect to locale, Titan Attacks pits you against adversaries from Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, thus purposing the title. You’ll begin your voyage on Earth, and the more gunfire you rake on the game’s descending baddies, the further you ascend towards your final destination at Titan–rendering enemy lines to heaps of pixel-popping debris along the way. Enemies are diverse, with alien soldiers parachuting below, gifting you with cash bonuses, or with ships snaking across the screen in every direction. The game’s five worlds are loaded with its own set of waves and a closing boss, each posing an increased difficulty as you progress through the awfully short campaign. The game will restart and relocate you to Earth after completing the final stage as a means to further increase your score, which adds just a hint of longevity to the already brief experience.
The game’s aesthetic is coated with pixel-layered visuals and 8-bit sound effects. Its retro-contemporary appeal gives it a comfortable sense of age that performs well on all three PlayStation devices, although the game does not push the hardware by any means. I was surprised, however, to bump into a minor sound bug that occurred twice in my overall playthrough with the game. After picking up a shield power-up, its obnoxious sound effect kept roaring through my speakers through an evident succession of enemy waves. While this annoyance was negligible, it did disturb the rhythm of the experience.
With a few simple additions, this neo-arcade shooter calls for age-old skills that would make any arcade disciple smile, if not outright grin. While it fails to innovate the formula on all fronts, there’s no denying that it’s a formula that still works, even after decades of carbon copies and imitators. Titan Attacks is a fan service to space-invading brethren of old, but strip away the charm and flattery and you are left with an antiquated, short-lived experience that facilitates just a tinge of classic fun.