Review: Defender (Atari 5200)

In this review, we fly through the Atari 5200 version of Defender.

This version of Defender was released in 1982 and is a port from an arcade game.

You are a single space ship and your goal is to protect the world from an alien invasion (which we note there were a lot of games with this kind of premise). You fly your ship through wave after wave of alien space craft. If you destroy every alien craft in the wave, then you advance to the next wave.

Aliens will attempt to abduct the small handful of humans on the surface. For every human that survives the wave (it is possible to shoot and kill one by accident), you get a bonus number of points. If you run out of humans, then the earth explodes and you are left with an even more difficult task of fighting off wave after wave of alien ships in outer space.

Aiding you is a small scanner of the surface. The boxes in the sky generally indicate an alien space craft. This can help you strategically fly through the different parts of the wrap-around world as you definitely do not want to take on too many enemies at a time.

While you have the main firing weapon, you can also fire one of the three smart bombs you are carrying on board. This will eliminate every enemy on screen. This can be useful when a flying saucer is bearing down on you or in later levels when you re-spawn in the middle of a massive swarm of enemies.

For every 10,000 points, you are awarded a precious free life. It’s possible to obtain bonus smart bombs, but I’m not sure how many points or exactly what you need to do to accomplish this.

There is a bit of a difficulty curve to this game. The beginning is fairly straight forward, but around wave 3 or 4 is usually the most difficult. When you get past that, you can usually spawn in the middle of a swarm at the start of the level and drop a smart bomb. Typically you can get a few thousand points as a result, netting you clear space to start and a good possibility of earning a free life. This strategy did help me through a number of waves later on in the game until I simply got overwhelmed with all of the tiny little ships firing at me.

Graphically, this game was OK. At times, it was difficult to see some of the shots because of what appears to be drawing issues. This led me to getting killed a time or two without me knowing what killed me in the first place.

The audio was decent enough. It had good sounds at the beginning and the sound effects did a decent job overall. No music, though.

Overall, this game was rather difficult to get used to. Once you establish a strategy for this game, it does become marginally easier, but games don’t last very long on average to begin with. The graphics were OK and the audio was half decent. If you are a fan of side scrolling shooters, this game is probably one to play. If you are a general gamer, it might be worth trying to satisfy some curiosity of what this game was like back then. A decent game all around.


furthest point in game: top Score: 94100

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 68%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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