Space Invaders

A review of Space Invaders I wrote for the website

Space Invaders. Just typing these two words evokes a certain kind of feeling, memories of a certain time and place; Saturday mornings at the arcades with pockets full of 10 pence coins. For the early arcade generation, Space Invaders embodies video games the way Mario does for the first Nintendo kids.

The reason for the huge success of Space Invaders on it’s original release is it’s simplicity. You are a laser cannon at the bottom of the screen and you must fire at the several rows of aliens above you who slowly descend towards you.

Whilst the idea and the way you play is simple, it doesn’t hurt the game. You don’t have to worry about reloading or from which direction you’re being shot at. You move left and right and shoot. The aliens keep coming, so you keep shooting them. On and on it goes, building to a crescendo, the aliens only just above your cannon leaving you not enough space to move, your finger frantically stabbing at the fire button.

There is no real way for you to win: eventually you will be beaten, at which point you’re forced to insert another coin. The aim is to last as long as you can and rack up the highest score possible, or rather, to make sure you get your initials above your friends’ on the high score table.

At least that was the original intention, from when the arcade industry was still on its feet; however, these days Space Invaders is very rarely played in it’s natural habitat.

Space Invaders lives on now through mobile phones and web browsers. You don’t need coins for it anymore, and as a result playing the game is somehow less enjoyable. In the arcade it came down to you versus the machine, using finely honed skill to squeeze every second possible out of each and every coin you put in. Now, there’s nothing at stake, even if the only thing that was at stake in the good old days was ten pence. It’s still fun, but it’s just not quite the same kind of fun.

Despite this change of environment, the core of the game remains the same. It may only be a game where you shoot aliens, but it does this very well. There is a reason why it is still around and hasn’t been forgotten. It’s a great game that still plays as well as it did when it was first released.

Times may have changed and video games have moved on but it’s good to know that Space Invaders is only a web search away. Sometimes, you just need to shoot some aliens like it’s 1978.

Four stars out of five

Originally published October 20th 2010



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