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Retro Wednesday: Space Invaders

March 12, 2008

space invadersIn 1977 my parents got me and my brother an Atari 2600.  It came with 2 controllers and the game Combat.  My parents also bought us Space Invaders.  That Christmas morning changed my life forever.  From that point on I would love video games and always be surrounded by them.

The original Space Invaders game was an upright arcade game that quickly became a classic.  The basic premise was that there where these Invaders from Space and they are about to land on a planet (never knew if it was Earth or not).  You are the sole protector of the planet with your glide tank, you can move from left to right shooting your laser cannon and you have 3 bunkers to hide behind spaced across the play screen.  Thankfully, for you the Invaders are very orderly and only attack in formations of about 6 battle lines.  The Invaders march across the screen from left to right and when they reach the edge of the screen, they move one line closer to the planet, all the while, dropping laser rays to destroy you in your tank.  As you destroy the Invaders, they start to move faster and faster.  Once one remains, it moves very quickly across the screen with the sole mission of reaching the planet and destroying your tank.

Occasionally, a ship would appear as the very top of the screen, making its way across – destroying this ship gave you extra points.

The game was an instant cult classic in the arcades and once the 2600 version came out, it was a classic in homes.  The game play wasn’t much different and if you were like me you found a way to beat the invaders every time.  Here was my favorite trick.  Each time you destroyed a wave of Invaders, the next wave would start a line lower.  There was a point however, where they couldn’t start any lower – but if they made it to the edge, they would move down one line and you would be destroyed.  There was a trick to this stage of the game.  I called it “tap-tap-press.”  After hundreds of games, I figured out that you had just enough time to destroy two Invaders in each column across the screen before the wave made it to the point where it would drop down a line.  So the “taps” were pushes of the fire button and the push was slightly pushing the joystick to the left just enough to get under the next column of Invaders.  I would “tap-tap-press” across the screen and then make my way back to the right destroying the rest of the columns. 

This technique took the fun out of the game because it became almost impossible for me to lose.  And like with all video games, boredom sets in and the excitement of a new adventure takes your attention away.  Regardless, Space Invaders got a lot of my quarters at the arcade and I’m sure our electricity bill was slightly higher with all the juice spent playing this great game.

There are countless ports of this game on just about every system including the PSP and many cell phones.  It shouldn’t be hard to find a Space Invaders game if you want.  There is a nice history of the franchise on wikipedia

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