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Xbox Live Indie Games Review - Sol Invasion

xboxboxartThere isn't a whole lot to it, but it's still pretty damn fun. Now, I have to confess, I haven't ever really liked space shooters like this. I couldn't even really get into Lucasart's Tie Fighter games as exceptional as they are. But when a game doesn't try to get too involved with it adding in buttloads of features that I'll never use and using a million different button combinations or every key on the entire damn keyboard. This game brings me back to a time when the original vector graphics Star Wars arcade game was the thing to play. Now granted, while the basic ideas are the same, this game IS vastly different. But it brings back that feeling of just having fun to have it. You're a fighter, and basically all you do in the game is fly around space destroying all the enemy ships. The good guys are in green, and the enemies are in red. Destroy the enemies. :) But there's slightly more to it that you can do than just that. And that's what makes the game interesting for me.


There's a little bit of depth (as much depth as a game this arcade-like can have and still be fun in my opinion) to it. You get resources out of the downed enemy ships that can be used to upgrade your fighter gun fire rate, the total missile capacity, you can call in reinforcements that appear directly in your line of site and fly off to go and blow some stuff up. And you can upgrade the fighter capacity.

The game's controls are very simply and intuitive. You strafe through space with the left stick, the right stick turns. Left and right trigger fire missiles and fire your main gun. And you use your bumpers to  send off either your fleet or fighters to the the enemy shit you have selected on your screen. The only problem I have with it, which takes some getting used to, is that you click and hold the left stick to thrust. But it didn't take long to get used to. The face buttons (A,B,X,Y) are only ever used when you get a ship upgrade of some kind.


Graphically, I have to say this game is damned impressive. The ships look great with a Babylon 5 type of look to them, and the explosions are cool. Fire envelopes the ships for a short time before they disintegrate into nothing with a little bit of wreckage. If I had to gripe about anything at all it would be that there isn't much variety in the ships. You do see basically the same ships throughout the game (if it even technically ends), just increasing in number with each wave. That still doesn't keep me from wanting to blow the son of a bitches out of the sky though. ;) And the frame rate doesn't seem to dip at all, even when there are a ton and a half of enemies and your guys flying around with bullets and missiles tearing through the sky. Since the view is from a little bit behind your ship, the camera gets a little wonky from time to time with your ship obscuring your vision, but it's rare and a quick flick of the analog sticks is all that's required to fix it.


The sound is pretty good. The music has a real mellow sound to it that's quite a bit off from the onscreen craziness that happens later on when the waves get bigger, it's still pretty good and doesn't get in the way of anything, though I do wish there was an option to turn it up and down, because it slightly drowns out the in game sound. You get voice chatter from your commander and squadmates, which does tend to repeat itself quite a bit. But it's still pretty cool to hear and helps to give you that sense that you're in a big battle. The weapon sounds are good, if a little too much in the background of everything. The explosions however aren't that great. I expect little pops from the smaller enemy fighters, but it would've been so much better to have a HUGE explosion emit from the larger ships. But it's only a small gripe.


The gameplay, like I said is simple and intuitive and doesn't ever get confusing in any way. There's no trying to figure out what buttons do what and the game controls very fluidly and has just the right speed to it. Hell, one of the things I hate about space shooting games is fixed here, if you get lost and can't find anything to shoot at, click the right stick and you're right back into it. Which helps since there doesn't appear to be a radar.  The squad AI isn't that bad either, I find myself constantly in the position of chasing after an enemy fighter, only to see one of the bigger enemy ships, so I'll flick my analog stick down to get it in my sights and send my fighters after it. Almost as soon as I do it I see this hail of bullets and missile head toward it and it's health starts going down. Thankfully, you have infinite ammo in the game. Although the more damage you take you'll lose the upgrades you got which means you can't fire as many missles, or your main gun's rate of fire is down to that of a pop gun. There really isn't a health bar. Whether or not your ship stays in the sky relies on how much crew you have. Which, yeah. I mean, it's a health bar in the end. But the way it's done is that you kinda need a crew to handle a ship, so it helps add to the game to think that when you're getting fired on that your crew gets hurt or killed in the process.

Sure, the game is pretty basic. You keep doing the same thing over and over until you get blown out of the sky to get a high score. It would've been nice to have online high scores. And it could have saved it's wave based levels for a "quick play" option and offered a story mode with cut scenes telling a story in between the waves or every few waves or something, because this game seems like it could be SOOOO much more with the fantastically fun engine and gameplay it's got. I really hope it goes further adding a story mode with different stuff to do (maybe protecting ships or something) and online play. Or at least an online leaderboard just so I can see how horrible I'm doing at the game. :)

And where the hell are MY huge pain in the ass to kill ships? :)

7.5 - It's only 80 points, it looks great, plays great. The sound itself is a little weak, but doesn't keep the game from being a lot of fun. Go ahead and give the trial a try. If you like simple in concept arcade style games, go ahead and get it. Even if you don't like space shooters like me, because I was pretty surprised on how much I like this game.

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