Space Invaders

Review Date: January 9, 2021

Release Date: March ??, 1980

Platform: Atari 2600 (and about 600 other platforms; it was multiconsole before that was a thing)

Genre: Shooter

Come on; let’s see what you got!

Anecdotes: Being born in 1977, I was a bit young for the Space Invaders craze, but we did own a copy of the 800 version later on. By time I got to play it, though, the star was burning out a bit and it just kind of came and went like a comet. We missed the spaceship on it; by time I was old enough, the NES had come out, and playing this game was an alien concept to me. This began a series of arcade shooters and it’s one of four games I consider very similar, yet quite different at the same time: Space Invaders, Missile Command, Centipede, and Asteroids. All of those involve taking your thing, shooting bullets at other things, clearing them off the screen, then the other things come back, and you do it again. They all, however, have very different takes on the concept. On an unrelated note, this is the last game I’m doing from the 2600, except for E.T., which I plan to play and review on January 23. I’ll be moving on to Atari 800 games for the rest of January.

Who’s controlling that spaceship? It’s smaller than the aliens!

Description: If it moves, shoot it (except for moving barriers). The idea here is to clear the screen of aliens. In the 2600 version, aliens start in a socially distanced 6 by 6 formation that they will never break. As enemies are cleared, the formation sticks, but with a gap. A couple of obstacles are there, too, and they can be helpful or hurtful at any given time.

Ha! Down it goes and my score is now the IRS’s favorite number.

Positives: The game comes with 112 (!) variations. 96 of them are 2 player; 16 of them are 1 player. For the single player modes, mode 1 has slow and straight down enemy fire, stable barriers, and visible aliens. To get other modes, add 1 for moving barriers, 2 for slightly homing enemy fire, 4 for faster enemy fire, and 8 for invisible aliens. This adds a lot of replay value. While I prefer mode 1 due to its ease and high score potential, other players may prefer something more challenging, and it’s available for them. The aliens are nicely animated and vary by row. A spaceship flies in at times and offers bonus points of you can hit it.

Negatives: The Atari 2600 isn’t made for games with 112 variations. If you miss the one you want, you have to cycle back through all of them to get back to it. There isn’t a whole lot of variety in the colors used and they’re quite drabby. The digits in the score aren’t lined up properly, either, but that is more of a nitpick.

I’m satisfied now that my score is now a year in the future, not in the past.

Grade: B

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