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The Antstream Arcade Archive: Space Invaders

In our latest Antstream Arcade Archive series, we take a look at another specific game from the Antstream Arcade Retro vault, giving you the lowdown on its plot and gameplay, as well tips and what to expect when you play it on Antstream. This month we proudly present the legend that is Space Invaders, the Taito classic that single-handedly kicked the arcade phenomenon into a new phase back in 1978.

Never heard of it.

Oh, ha-ha! With perhaps only Pac-Man rivalling it in terms of legendary status, Space Invaders is a true masterpiece of videogaming and the arcade machine that entranced a generation of gamers and beyond. Instantly recognisable and playable, this is a coin-op giant, and it’s available to play on Antstream Arcade. How cool is that?

Very cool, and I’m kidding, of course. It started the whole alien invasion thing, right?

Yes – the Earth is under attack! Phalanxes of alien invaders are lining up, inexorably descending towards the human settlements below. Taking command of a mobile laser cannon, the objective is plain: destroy as many of the invaders as possible before they reach the planet’s surface.

Why is Space Invaders so revered?

Apart from the nostalgia factor, Space Invaders has a special place in videogame history that marks it out from all of its peers. Shooting games were around but still relatively rare by 1978 – Space Invaders managed to crystallize a popular mechanic and combine it with enemies that adapted as the game progressed, moving quicker and dropping more bombs. It also marked a junction of sci-fi inspired shooting games that continues to prove engaging to this day, and boasts instantaneously familiar imagery such as the fragile buildings, the player’s cannon, and, of course, those tyrannical alien invaders. The terminal nature of the game is another mythical prospect – should just one invader reach the bottom of the screen, it’s game over, regardless of how many spare lives the player has in the bank.

I’m ready to defend the Earth – any tips?

While this battle inevitably ends with the invaders landing, there’s plenty of scope to milk the invasion for as high a score as possible. Key to this is the little flying saucer that occasionally flies across the top of the screen. Nicknamed the ‘Furrer Trick’ after Eric Furrer, the gamer who discovered it, this involves counting your fire and waiting to hit the saucer with the 23rd shot. After this, try and take out the subsequent saucers with your 15th shot until the method resets for the next level. Using this technique, the saucer yields a bigger score, and with an extra life at 1500 points, it’s a tactic well worth employing.

Apart from the saucer trick, how does the scoring work?

Points are in short supply in Space Invaders. A standard alien nets just 10, while the medium gets you 20 points and the small nippy aliens a relatively bountiful 30. The saucer is random, but generally scores 100 points, making it a valuable victim.

Presumably Antstream Arcade has some neat Space Invaders-themed challenges?

We sure do! There are three Space Invaders challenges for Antstream subscribers, and each one is a subtle twist on this ageless game. Alien Ambush is one of our famous one-life challenges while Laser Accuracy requires the player to fire as many shots as possible without missing. Finally, Shields Down! removes the iconic buildings, leaving the player totally exposed to the alien bombs. How quickly can you clear the first wave in this undefended state?

I’m sure I remember playing Space Invaders on my dear old ZX Spectrum back in the day…

You probably played one of the many Space Invaders clones that abounded in the early Eighties. Unofficial versions of arcade games were very popular on home computers, and with Taito’s shoot-‘em-up one of the most well-known coin-ops, it was a predictable target for what we shall charitably call ‘homages’. Notable clones of Space Invaders include Spectral Invaders on the Speccy, Avenger on the Commodore 64 and the Mattel Intellivision’s Space Armada. There was an official version on the Atari 2600, written by Richard Maurer.

As an arcade game based around score attack, I guess the high score table is well-populated?

The battle at the top of the Space Invaders leader board is an intense struggle for supremacy currently dominated by (yes, you guessed it) VeeKiraRay with a top score of 9990 points. Below him sits and Tee-1000 with 5850 and 5440 points respectively. Other top ten notables include Antstream’s own Jim Bagley at seventh place with 3960 points, closely shadowed by BK_Lounge with 3800 points.

It was truly a golden time for arcade games.

Absolutely, and there are many more games from this wonderful period available on Antstream Arcade. You can check out Atari’s Asteroids or the more thoughtful Lunar Lander, or nudge into the Eighties with fellow legend Pac-Man, the tank-tastic Battlezone and crazy racer, Rally-X. Relive the golden age of arcade videogames on Antstream Arcade!

Thank you for reading - watch out for another blast from the Antstream Arcade Archive soon! Easter Egg

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