Friday, May 24, 2013

Defender & Scramble

Defender came out in 1980.  Famously it was the first arcade style game produced by the pinball machine makers 'Williams".  It was a hugely popular sideways scroller that looked years ahead of its time when released due to its fast smooth scrolling.  Game play is simple enough defend you astronauts from being abducted by the aliens by wiping them out first.  Take too long and the said aliens start to carry your men up and away requiring you to shoot the alien (not the astronaut!) and then swoop in to catch the falling dude.  Sounds simple now but this was a game that would have your heart rate soaring until it got too much for you and you had to press the hyperspace button.  As with asteroids a few years earlier the hyperspace button needed an element of luck as you had no control over where you would reappeer. 

Defender ruled as the king of sideways scrolling games until the following year when Konami released Scramble.  This game sees you 'Jet' fly across the continuously scrolling landscape while waves of aliens come at you and missiles are fired from the ground.  later levels there is an incredibly difficult meteor shower to navigate that I never managed to get past.  To make matters worse you had limited fuel which needed to be replenished by bombing the fuel tanks on the ground.  More experienced players soon developed the skill of hugging the ground and mashing the bomb and missile button as fast as possible.  Thus avoiding a lot of the dangers.  These new features brought a new depth to simple shooter type games.


Gorf came next with the ability to drain us of even more money by letting you insert a second coin yo get 3 more lives.  yes 6 whole lives at the start of the game.  With the first screen being an updated version of the space invaders theme you quickly realize that Gorf has an odd firing system.  Shoot too quick and the firing missile will disappear and be replaced with your new one.  This means that in those moments of panic you could find yourself shooting so fast at an approaching alien that you cant hit it.  Very frustrating until you get the hang of it and settle into that slow Gorf mode shooting rhythm.  Before I mention the remaining levels, Gorf must get a mention for the best so far speech in a game.  With it even laughing at you in a mocking way as it says "baaaad luuuuck spaaace caaptaain" when you died.  The seconds level 'laser attack' was a favorite if only for the laser sound effects and having to dodge quickly out of the way from the 1 pixel lines coming at you.  After that you get a Galaxians clone before the hypnotic Space Warp level which owes its inspiration to the Pheonix level.  From here its the final level with you trying to shoot out the reactor of the massive Flag Ship.  Destroy the ship and its back to the start and a harder level before the inevitable "Some galactic defender you are, Space Colonel".  Great game and some great synthesized speech for 1981.