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Duæl Invaders (Minis)

For: PSP
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Possibly from space

Product: Duæl Invaders | Developer: Laughing Jackal | Format: PSP | Genre: Shooter | Players: 1-2 | Networking: on one device | Version: US
Duæl Invaders PSP, thumbnail 1
There’s only so much you can do with the Space Invaders template before it starts to look a little desperate.

So Duæl Invaders, the latest title from developer Laughing Jackal, can be considered a little breath of fresh air.

It may not work on some levels, but it still has enough interesting ideas to distance itself away from Taito's classic shooter.

Seeing double

The main gimmick here is that you control two ships, on both the right and left sides of the screen, in a horizontally arranged space setting.

With movement limited to the Y axis, you control the ship on the left with the up and down directions on the D-pad, and the one on the right with the face buttons. Shooting for each is assigned to the corresponding Shoulder button.

It’s a fairly simple setup, but it needs to be – as soon as you start the first level of the Solo mode you’ll be lost within seconds. The human brain is just not designed to be able to cope with this much going on at once.

For added annoyance, you can actually destroy your ships with your opposite vessel’s fire.

Although you do eventually concoct methods with which to be at least efficient at clearing stages, at no point do you master the game as you'd like to.

Most of the time you’ll actually welcome having only one ship left, so that you can have complete control.

Star wars

But when you play the game in multiplayer – which lets two people share a PSP and control a ship each – the clunkiness of the Solo mode is forgotten. This setup works very well indeed, especially on the PSP’s luxurious wide screen.

When you only have one ship to worry about you can actually concentrate on shooting the specific enemies that trigger combos. Blasting foes the same colour as your ship is also easier, which increases your 'Skew' rate, which then helps boosts your scores.

There are two multiplayer modes, Dual and Duel (this is the reason for the 'æ' in the title), and they offer up very different experiences.

In Dual, the emphasis is on co-operation. The gameplay is exactly the same as in Solo mode, except that there are individual scores for both players.

This results in you needing to use teamwork to beat the stages, but there's always a competitive element bubbling under throughout.

Duel is more straightforward. Both players are given three lives, and whoever is left standing wins. It’s a simplistic but effective formula, favouring mindless blasting over Dual mode's more considered but arguably less satisfying approach.

Pixel perfect

Wrapped up in a highly appealing retro presentation, Duæl Invaders is the definition of an opinion divider.

Although it has more than enough variations on the traditional Space Invaders template, you could argue that game falters as much as it succeeds.

Those looking for a simple shooter will not find much to love here. But for those who see the PSP Minis marketplace as a place for risky experimentation and brave ideas, this could be just the (low priced) ticket.

Duæl Invaders (Minis)
Reviewer photo
Simon Reed | 26 April 2011
A well-presented shot of retro-blasting chaos, with just enough twists to keep you entertained
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