Retro Invaders VR

Posted June 6, 2014 by in

Developer: Ben
Release Date: 30-09-2013
Game Type: Shooter
Platform: PC
HMD: Oculus Rift
Control Schemes: Xbox Controller & Keyboard
Download: Click here

Best Part:

Smart, joyful, twists

Worst Part:

Not particularly beautiful
Bottom Line

Spoiler Warning: There’s more than meets the eye to this VR remake of Space Invaders.






Comfort Level


Total Score

3/ 5

by Edmund
Full Article

When researching for the Oculus Rift Retro remakes feature, I stumbled on a 2013 game jam entry called Retro Invaders VR.

The game presents itself as Space Invaders for the Rift but it is also a smartly experimental piece of entertainment with some fun post-modernist twists. Creator, Ben Librojo, suggests that you’ll appreciate the game more if you don’t know what to expect and I would echo that sentiment – so if you haven’t played it then I urge you to give it a try before watching the rest of this video to avoid spoilers. You have been warned.

Retro Invaders VR begins as very much a standard version of space invaders, albeit at a blown-up scale – as if you were playing on a large 3D cinema screen. Your perspective is a little way back from the aliens and play proceeds according to the normal rules of the game. After beating the first stage you will restart, only this time from a different perspective –a little closer – forcing you to make more head movements. The third stage maintains your interest by placing you in front of a Space Invaders arcade machine – look down and you’ll see the buttons. There is still a sense of depth to the game – making if feel like it takes place within the space of the cabinet and giving you the realisation that you were just inside it.

Level 4 is entitled “Back in the Game” and returns to the perspective of the first stage. The next pulls you in lower and closer forcing you to crane your neck upwards . This really compliments the feeling of ‘death from above’ that Space Invaders evokes. Level 6 prompts you to look backwards. Do so, and you’ll see the rest of the arcade through the display – confirming your earlier suspicion that you are inside an arcade cabinet. This is only a flat image, but it conveys the sense of place well enough. Level 7 provides further novelty, having you peering down at the action from above.

All of these changes of perspective serve a number of purposes. Shifting viewpoint each level minimises neck fatigue. It also helps maintain interest and a sense of discovery in what is otherwise an essentially repetitive task. The revelation that you are physically within an arcade cabinet is a delightful twist and hints at more to come. The variety also serves experimental purposes; exploring  what the most comfortable angle to play at is, as well as how different perspectives affect the emotions the game evokes. Looking down on your foes feels quite different from having them tower above you – which feels different, still, from standing at a games cabinet.

I’ve only managed to get to level 8, so I don’t know if there are many more unique levels to play. With game over, though, comes Retro Invaders VR’s biggest twist. After you die, you appear in front of the arcade machine again – this time, with a whole arcade around you, and a gun in your hand. You’ll realise you can move around, and soon after that you’ll realise that the arcade has been taken over by the giant space invader aliens… You’ll have to shoot your way to the exit!

This section of the game, arguably the ‘real’ game, may not be overly ambitious but it is actually a pretty enjoyable little shooting gallery. It’s a simple shoot-where-you-look control system but it works quite well. Because of this, the layout of the arcade and the movement of the enemies, it really does play more like Space Invaders than Call of Duty – and that’s surely the point. Getting out of the arcade, and into the mall, you’ll get a better gun and have to face more enemies at once. Eventually you can get out of into the city, where you get a bazooka and shoot up at the aliens in the sky.

Retro Invaders VR is a game that revels in piling on the twists. Die in the first person-shooter segment and you’ll appear at a desk next to someone wearing an Oculus Rift. The layering on of new levels, new perspectives and new planes of reality means that you can’t help but wonder how deep the rabbit-hole goes – you’ll want to play again to see if there’s some huge chunk of the experience you maybe missed.

For a game that bills itself as a remake, Retro Invaders VR, is brimming with creativity and Joie de Vivre. It may have been put together with some pretty basic assets, and you can certainly see the seams, particularly in the FPS sections, but it succeeds in all it sets out to do. By simply riffing off a tried and true game design, it explores some of the challenges and options of the medium, as well as managing to pose some classic VR Sci-Fi questions to the player about ‘what is real?’ Show it to your friends without comment and it’ll definitely put a smile on their face as it modestly blows their minds.



About the Author


Edmund Ward is a philosophy graduate who has focused on aesthetics and cultural critique in the information age. He grew up with 'the dream of the holodeck' and is prone to get very excited by new innovations in natural user-interfaces. Edmund is currently looking for volunteers to look after the glucose drip that will sustain his "fleshform" (as he insists on calling it) when he migrates permanently to VR.

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