Thursday, December 15, 2016

Super Space Invaders

How could you possibly ever consider an attempt to improve upon the all-time arcade classic Space Invaders? #insult

Well, you might try supersizing it which is exactly what Domark did back in 1991 with the imaginatively titled Super Space Invaders. A conversion of the old favourite which features an alternative array of next-gen invaders to quench our two-dimensional alien zapping thirst!

Now, I'm usually a little wary of something that claims to 'improve' upon anything I've been happily enjoying over the decades. If it ain't broken... But I kept an open mind and was also a little intrigued by Super Space Invaders style and wondered how well this could possibly work. Essentially, they've twisted and moulded the original idea into something which looks and sounds very modern (for 1991) with lots of neat touches and a few stolen ideas. Right from the very start, we're treated to a superb intro depicting our hero being alerted of the incoming invasion, before tooling-up to show 'em who is the boss. Do watch this, it's a brilliant animation with great sound effects and one of the best intros I've seen since Race Drivin'. Throughout gameplay, the graphics are generally excellent with nicely detailed invaders and I especially liked the huge insects and End Of Level bosses - brilliant examples of cool pixel art. Audio is great, from that cool intro through to the game itself. However, I was a little disappointed not to hear the famous cannon sound effect... Musically, very interesting because I was immediately reminded me of Escape From The Planet Of The Robot Monsters. Can you also hear it or is it just me?

As with the original arcade game, each wave starts off slow and gradually speeds up with each alien death - until all have gone kaput! Every stage is presented as a group of levels, similar to Blasteroids or Stardust, and will need completing before you can progress. The alien grunts are awesome and come in a wide variety of targets for our gun love - some will bloat after being shot, thus requiring extra effort for the kill. Don't expect the same boring attack formation, this time the aliens are ready for you and will use various methods with some breaking away, in true Galaxian style! An easily-targetted mothership frequently passes at the top of the screen and, once destroyed, she drops a handy power-up in true Arkanoid fashion. These come in all shapes and sizes and I love the laser which slices through hoards of aliens like a hot knife through butter! I do admit to taking a predictable liking to the rapid fire power-up, okay it's simple but it works so perfectly. If Space Invaders ever had a flaw, then it's repetition and Super Space Invaders attempts to break that by also introducing bonus rounds - flying saucers are invading the rural countryside and abducting cattle, of all things. It's a pretty lame idea but crudely entertaining, even if I always end up losing at least one cow! Finally, groovy end of level bosses are on guard and in urgent need of a good hiding - I am especially impressed by the level three boss which I thought was beautifully animated (and not too difficult to kill).

Overall, this is a pretty tough one to rate because I think many purists will probably turn up their nose in disgust at this abomination. However, keep an open mind and stick with it because I feel the addition of borrowed ideas, bosses, and superb power-ups help to bump it up past being a mere clone of such an iconic title. Super Space Invaders is indeed a great game in its own right, it's very entertaining and far more addictive than I first imagined. In fact, I liked this game so much, I went "out" (aka eBay) and bought it so what does that tell you? Hmm, don't answer that!

LINKS

 - I recorded a quick youtube video for y'all to laugh at. I mean, enjoy...
 - AtariMania features Super Space Invaders within their Atari ST database website.
 - If you have the hardware then look no further than 8BitChip for the best download.
 - All floppy disk users should check out Old Games Finder.
 - I stumbled upon this interesting thread on Atari-Forum about a long-lost hack (credit: dlfrsilver)
 - Update: here is a fantastic video recording by Kev @ Atari STaffroom.