Some words from my brain to yours about whatever game has been occupying my time over the last 7 days. Once a week, EVERY week for the duration of 2015. God help us.
In the wake of the sad news that the Chet & Jon podcast is coming to an end I attempted to fend off the mourning by delving into their archives and downloading a bunch of their earliest shows from 2012. A common staple of the top ten lists back then was Jeff Minter’s iOS game Grid Runner, a game that, to be quite honest, I’d never actually heard off. Or, more likely, I’d just forgotten about.
Either way, it sounded excellent, so with 69p burning a hole in my digital pocket I loaded up the App Store ready to make a purchase. I never actually made it that far, because upon seeing the preview screenshots of Grid Runner I was reminded of Space Invaders Infinity Gene; arguably the best iOS game ever and something I used to play religiously back when I first got an iPhone. At some point over the years I had inexplicably deleted it, which makes me both a loser and a fool. So, with my nostalgia glands tingling, I re-downloaded Infinity Gene and started cracking back into it. And what a game. What. A. Game.
Turns out that as it had been such a long time since I last played it (with the intervening years seeing me add 2 new jobs, 1 new house, an extra child, a fish and a dog to my real-life achievement list) that I’d actually forgotten almost everything about it. I remembered that the action gets bat-shit insane but I was pretty surprised that the first few stages are as tame as they are, with the very first level even featuring a perfect recreation (sound effects and everything) of the original Space Invaders screens from the 70’s. It’s not too long before the true core of the game reveals itself though and, following an appropriate quote from Charles Darwin on-screen, the game begins to mutate.
Infinity Gene is a game that is constantly throwing something new at you. At the end of each stage (whether you cleared it successfully or ran out of lives) you’re presented with a results screen, at the bottom of which sits your ‘GENE’ progress bar, which is basically your XP. Fill the bar and the game evolves, be it enhancements to the movement capabilities of your ship, a new weapon, a new alternate level, extra lives and unlockable music or artwork. It’s a constant stream of new stuff to play with and you’re rewarded whether you fail or succeed. Unlocking a new weapon after you’ve slowly filled up the GENE bar by failing a stage 3 times certainly gives you the incentive to jump back in and try again with your new tool.
Of course, the main draw with Infinity Gene is to see how bewildering the next stage will be from the last. Developers Taito work wonders with a basic set of design elements; transforming simple wire frames and blocks of primary colour into a dazzling galaxy that is either vomiting familiar Space Invaders assets at you like a tramp on acid or filling the screen with hulking star destroyers and ominous rod-shaped floating weapons that fire enormous columns of laser-death at you. For a game that you’d imagine to be so small in scope, it’s incredible how vast it is.
I’m about halfway through this game at the moment (struggling to destroy a bastard of a boss shaped like an inverted peace symbol called The Moon) but it’s safe to say it won’t be leaving my iPhone again. A game that constantly re-invents itself; constantly ups the ante and is always one step ahead of your brain. What’s not to love?
Oh, and rest in peace Chet & Jon’s Reassuringly Finite Gaming Playlist. You will be missed.
played on iOS