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Space Invaders - The Atari Times

Space Invaders

The weirdest looking version yet
by Matthias Jaap

March 10, 2005
When Taito released the arcade machine Space Invaders, it became a huge hit in Japan and caused a shortage of certain Yen coins. Taito quickly developed a successor and although none of them were as popular as the original, they even released an updated game version to celebrate the game's birthday. The most famous home conversion of Space Invaders is the one Atari did for the VCS 2600 and although the conversion wasn't exactly the best one, it also sold very well and established the term "system seller." Therefore it seemed like a bright idea to release Space Invaders again - this time for the 5200.

Besides the standard Atari introduction screen there is no real title screen: just the game title, a scrolling copyright message and the playfield. After starting the game the invaders slowly appear from the left side. You can immediately attack the aliens which fire back, of course. The only save places on the screen are the three shields on the screen. You can seek protection there but the laser fire from the aliens slowly destroy these shields. Spending too much time under a shield is certainly a bad idea because once the enemies reach the right side, they move one line down. There is also a bit strategy in the game: if you destroy a whole column of enemies they will need a bit more time to reach the right side. The game is getting faster every time you destroy an alien. The last alien is quite fast and hard to hit.

Graphically, the game looks very weird. Atari certainly didn't try to bring the game closer to the original. The alien sprites are painted in one of six colors. Each has about three animation phases and their appearance changes after a few rounds. But the 5200 could certainly do much better. Sound in the game consists of various noises which could also be reproduced on the Atari 2600 with a little effort. A nice idea is that the sound volume increases every time the aliens move one line down.

Space Invaders is best controlled with a trackball but even without one you won't have any problems moving your ship from left to right and back. There are also some game variations available which are nice but the 2600 version had lots more. You can switch between a one and two player game (one after another), three or five lives and overall game speed. Nothing exciting but enough to offer experienced gamer a harder game.

Atari's conversion of Space Invaders is not a bad game but even in 1982 and with the addition of colours it certainly showed its age. Strangely, Atari always had a tendency to convert old arcade games for their new system and Space Invaders is no exception. Although you can see their efforts to improve the game, the graphics aren't on par with the 5200's better games. The gameplay also tends to get boring quickly.

Maybe Space Invaders is a game that can't be improved much – even much more improved clones of the game (like Better dead than alien on the ST) were usually getting bad reviews. Sadly, the 5200 version didn't receive any graphic hacks. There are dozens of VCS 2600 hacks available and some are quite creative.

Space Invaders

(c) Atari

No title screen? Arrggh!
The 5200 version is very colorful.
Space Invaders
System: 5200
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 40%
Sound & Music Score: 25%
Gameplay Score: 55%
Control Score: 80%

Final Score: 53%

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