Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Ah, Space Invaders. Good old venerable Space Invaders. Birth of a generation, ported to nearly every console imaginable, and still relevant in many fashions 30 years later. This game appeared on the scene in 1978, a production of the powerhouse Taito Corp, and famously dominated the Atari 2600 systems across America's living rooms as it was lighting up arcades.
Everyone knows this game in some form or other. Space Invaders has gone on to become as much a cultural flashpoint as Pac-Man or Mario (or any of their progeny) in many ways, and immediately lit a fire under the game industry's collective ass as countless knockoffs emerged in it's wake. But - what about the one that started it all?
Sure, everyone has played Space Invaders after all these years, it's a pretty basic setup - monsters are slowly crawling down the screen towards your ship, blast them before they blast you or descend to the surface. Lose all your lives and that's it.. Yup, pretty basic, I feel almost silly even typing "how to play Space Invaders," next up is "how to chew a sandwich"
But then - we take it for granted. Sure everyone and their ma has played it by now, but how many of you have actually "played it?" If you sit down with the game for a minute or two, especially in light of how much faster and glitzier games have become over the decades, the thing just feels like a dinosaur - a yawn-fest. What's the point of even trying to play, isn't tying your shoes more fun then this? Hell no! Sit down with a round of SI and actually see how many rounds you can clear. It's not easy! It's not hard, but a few minutes in and after you get past the "who cares" barrier, you suddenly pass through the "oh crap!" barrier and then, the game has you.. And then you say waitaminute, I am not gonna get killed by Space Invaders that's ridiculous, lemme give it another shot - suddenly, a half hour has passed, and every time your little tank gets pulverized by those slimy pale bastards, you feel it in the pit of your gut. You must.. get even!
Pictured above is the 2600 home version. If the arcade Space Invaders looks like a Triceratops, the 2600 port looks like a paramecium. There's just not much there! But the gameplay is still there, it might not be so serviceable now but back in the day when controlling an image on your TV screen was the bee's knees, this was actually quite amusing... and a fairly acceptable representation of the game we all enjoyed at the bowling alley.
Space Invaders may be a tough pill to swallow for most, but for me, I can still sit down and rifle through a few rounds now and again and get quite a charge out of it - I prefer the Sega Master System version, piped through a Game Boy Micro, personally. There's umpteen sequels (and rip-offs) available for your perusal as well, some worth your time (and others, not so much). We'll get to those another day. For now, give the Grandpa of Videogames a visit and see if you have what it takes to get more than a few screens in - and then tell me if you don't find some of the old magic still lingering in there..!