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Space Invaders (Arcade) artwork

Space Invaders (Arcade) review

"Introduction and History 


Introduction and History 

Space Invaders took the world by storm in 1978 with its unprecedented popularity. Like Gun Fight before it, Space Invaders caused a coin shortage in Japan, except the shortage was so severe that supply was quadrupled in the upcoming year. The United States experienced a similar phenomenon but nowhere near the magnitude. 

Southern conservatives in the United States were so concerned about Space Invaders' popularity that they fought to ban it from the Bible Belt. While this sounds silly today, the conservatives may have had a point since youngsters routinely skipped school to play Space Invaders, and even more alarming were the urban legends of the girl who stole five thousand dollars to feed her Space Invaders addiction and gangs of kids who burglarized stores and headed to the arcade afterwards. 

Before Space Invaders, video games were confined to arcades and, occasionally, bars. Now distribution reached pizza shops, bowling alleys, and even convenience stores. Because of this, Space Invaders is generally acknowledged as the world's first blockbuster video game. 

Taito fell so far behind demand in production that they licensed to Bally Midway for production in North America. While a limited number of direct Taito units made it to the shores, the vast majority have Midway stamped on it. Furthermore, no game since Pong was cloned and hacked as much; Space Invaders was so profitable and so in demand that establishments readily bought homemade units from less-than-reputable sources. 

Taito and Bally Midway finally put Atari under the gun. While Gun Fight was successful, it didn't rob enough sales from Atari to be of much concern. Space Invaders finally put Atari in the dark, but not for long. Atari soon countered with Asteroids, their best selling game ever, which effectively single handedly destroyed Space Invaders' massive popularity, at least in the United States. 


Space Invaders features one color graphics as it runs on the same platform as Gun Fight. However, Taito took a lesson from Atari's Breakout and used colored adhesive strips to simulate color graphics. As in Breakout, the strips are primitive but effective as they add a significant dimension to play. 

The Bally Midway version also includes a transparency of a planet/asteroid and a midnight blue space backdrop. While blurring the game's graphics slightly and making objects (especially enemy shots) more difficult to see, the transparency makes the game look quite appealing. 


Only seven sounds (well, eight since one sound is played backwards) exist, but most are quite memorable. The game's dominant deep bass ''thump, thump, thump'' is still remembered as one of the most intimidating noises in video game history. The laser shot and exploding effects are quite well done also. 

Controls and Mechanics 

The player pilots a laser base horizontally at the bottom of the screen and fires at the 11 × 5 grid of invading aliens. The alien squad moves back and forth horizontally and moves one row downward per cycle. The player must kill all the aliens before they reach the laser base. Shots from the aliens kill the player as well. The invaders' pace quickens as the player destroys more of them. 

Protecting the player are four igloo-shaped barriers, which may be a help or hindrance. Both aliens and the players may shoot the barriers, generally eroding their shielding. 

The bottom two rows of aliens are worth 10 points each, the next two rows are worth 20 points each, and the top row is worth 30 points each, so a regular stage is worth 990 points. Occasionally, a red flying saucer flies overhead; it's destruction is worth a ''random'' amount of points up to 300. Extra lives are awarded after (usually) 1,000 points. 

Only one shot may be fired at a time, and shot expiration occurs when it contacts an barrier, alien, alien shot, flying saucer, or top of the screen.


Space Invaders is a very challenging game. Expect to play two or three times before progressing past the first board. Shooting the invaders in the proper sequence, avoiding alien shots, achieving the highest score possible, and killing all the aliens before they reach the bottom of the screen is most difficult, especially since the challenge ramps rapidly.


The amount of points rewarded for shooting flying saucers is actually based on the number of shots the player fired. The ''Furrer'' trick, named after the fellow who discovered it, allows a player to shoot the saucer for maximum value every time. 


For some reason, I never had much fun playing this game. I can tolerate it for thirty seconds at a time, but in general I avoid it. As a child, I often turned to other games such as Asteroids, Pac-Man, or Dig Dug before dropping quarters into this one. 

The obnoxious challenge is part of my distaste. Space Invaders makes me too angry when I die, and I do not wish to invest the time or money necessary to become proficient at the game. 

I also find Space Invaders quite boring. I blast rows of aliens again and again, but since I don't like it too much the first time, subsequent stages just irritate me all the more. I guess it's just a taste thing, and Space Invaders was a tad before my time as well. 


Space Invaders was the fuel necessary to move the struggling video game industry into the limelight. Now demand was high enough to support multiple firms and profits were high enough for the firms to expand and push more money into research for better games. Space Invaders set the stage for what is most likely the most profitable three years in arcade video gaming history.

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Community review by whelkman (May 26, 2008)

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