Weekly Time-Waster: Spawn of Space Invaders
When Chaos Invaders came up on some video game blogs last week, we started to wonder how many different takes on the Space Invaders model we'd seen since it originally appeared in arcades in 1978. Just like with countless other classic games, designers and developers have been consistently going back to these mainstays, whether it's for satire, a simple experiment in mechanics, to make a quick buck, or something more involved and imaginative like Braid's take on the Mario princess quest. Either way, we struck out on a mission to explore the field of Space Invaders successors before we quickly realized that it's hard to go back and blindly search for a game whose name is now so embedded in our culture. Not to mention the fact that many of the adaptations we had played were download-only. Even limiting ourselves to the popular Flash gaming site Kongregate, a simple search turned up over 200 results.
We picked a few...
In Chaos Invaders, you have a fire button, but your ship shoots all on its own. The fire button you get does something else entirely. As enemies die, they fall to the bottom of the screen where you're supposed to collect them like garbage on top of your ship. When you fire, one-by-one, the enemies collected on your ship are launched back into their old allies. The more you collect, the easier it is to keep any from getting past you, which causes you to lose time, and the more ammunition you have to take care of those that remain. It's an interesting premise, though the controls are limited and the enemies stack up in ways you can't expect or plan for causing some minor frustrations.
The name of 32769 Invaders comes from the number of possible invader-shapes given the dimensions of the sprite image and strict vertical symmetry (click here to see the original invader fractal). Other than the novelty of the randomly shaped enemies, it's just a harder, high-score-fueled remake.
Then there's Space Defence, which combines the enemy mechanics of Space Invaders with the player interactions of Pong and the survival aspect of Missile Command. You spend most of your time just trying to keep the bullets from getting through (because there's a lot of them) and less trying to aim (because getting the angle right on your paddle and calculating the movement of the baddies is just too damn hard!). It's chaotic and fun, calling on all sorts of old arcade skills.
Inverse Invaders is exactly what you think. The roles have been reversed and now you play the team of invaders trying to take down that single, free-moving defender. You don't get to control your movement at all, but you use your mouse to click on whichever member of your army you want to take a shot. It's an amusing exercise in seeing how the game holds up from the other side's perspective, but it didn't really keep our attention beyond that. (Check out Enemy 585 if you want a chance to walk a mile or more in one of Mario's enemies shoes).