Review: Space Invaders (Atari 2600)

By Drew Wilson

Space Invaders is perhaps one of the most classic video games ever created that predated Nintendo’s famous console launch title Super Mario Bros. We review this top down shooter action game that is considered highly influential by many others.

It’s pretty hard to consider yourself a hardcore gamer without having played at least one of the classic versions of this game. Space Invaders was ported to the Atari 2600 in 1980. This allowed gamers to play this classic game without the constraints of it being in a large arcade cabinet sitting somewhere in random arcades.

Your mission is quite straight forward – stop the invasion of aliens coming from space and attacking Earth. You lose if you lose all of your lives or if the space invaders touch the ground.

Aiding you in your defensive mission are three, what appear to be, rocks. These rocks can stop shots in their tracks, but not without taking damage. Eventually, shots will make it through if they take enough damage, but it takes numerous shots for that to happen. The main way these rocks get completely taken out is if one of the space invaders touches them. That removes the rocks completely, leaving you completely vulnerable to the alien attackers.

All you have is an unlimited supply of bullets for your main weapon and three lives as well as a limited area for you to duck back and forth to either aim your shots or evade enemy fire.

The aliens are numerous and gradually slide back and forth in increments denoted by a sort of synthesized clunking noise. These aliens are also capable of occasionally firing shots at you in the process, so while this game might look simple at the beginning, it is actually quite challenging to survive the onslaught.

As you defeat these aliens, you’ll occasionally have a blue flying UFO travel along the top of the screen. You’ll get bonus points if you are successful in shooting it down, but it is otherwise seemingly harmless.

If you defeat half of the aliens, the aliens will move a little faster. Defeat half of the remaining aliens, and the aliens will move faster still. This keeps going until you defeat every last one of those aliens.

If you defeat all of the aliens, you’ll advance to the next wave of aliens. In each successive wave, the aliens shots are more accurate, more numerous and they start at an increasingly lower potion of the sky, leaving you with less time to defeat them. One thing we should note: if you miss the aliens, you have to wait for your bullet to disappear off of the map before you can fire again – so a high degree of accuracy more than a quick trigger finger is the key to defeating the aliens in short order.

One thing I didn’t like about this game is the fact that the aliens had a wider field to move in. They could move further left or right than you could. I thought this was a bit ridiculous because I sometimes had to wait an extra second before the aliens slid back into range from the sides.

Another thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the crude difficulty curve. This game starts off as approachable, but it quickly becomes a very difficult game – leaving you with little time to amp up your skills before the game got frustratingly hard. Even within the first wave, the game was kind of difficult by the time you got to the end – especially with how fast the very last alien got.

Still, this game certainly had an addicting nature to it. It is little wonder why this game inspired future game developers into making more modern video games since then.

The graphics were decent. You could identify almost everything in the map (except, maybe, the rocks (?) that block shots).

There was no music, but the sound effects were good for a game of its time.

Overall, I’d say this game is worth playing. It’s one of those games where you could choose to play it for a few minutes or a few hours. The necessary amount of time you have to play this game is huge and completely up to you. Generally, a fun little distraction.


Furthest point in game: Third wave. Didn’t really last long on it, mind you.

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 9/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 70%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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