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Released in 1978 by Taito, Space Invaders is one of the first and most well-known of modern computer games. Its popularity increased by leaps and bounds in the following few years after its initial release, when the game spread from Japan to invade the USA (published, under the same name, in the US by Midway). Space Invaders' popularity only continued to rise as its addictive gameplay started to infect the rest of the computer-gaming world.
Rumor has it that the arcade version was such a big hit in its native country, Japan, that it caused a coin shortage. This lead to an unprecedented first in arcade gaming's history - the country's coin supply had to be quadrupled!
Space Invaders' gameplay is deceptively simple. Your mission: To defeat ever massing waves of alien invaders, by controlling a small spaceship at the bottom of the screen, heavily outnumbered and shielded by only a few, destructible bases.
In each stage there are five rows of invaders. As they move back and forth across the screen, gradually descending upon you with each sweep - one step closer with every change of direction - they start to move faster and faster. After a certain number of the invaders are destroyed, the rest also begin to move with increasing speed. Apart from moving, they also fire projectiles from time to time to make your life harder. But you are not entirely defenseless...
You can protect your ship by hiding under one of the protective shields, but these - as mentioned - are destructible and after a time they will perish. One bad thing about these shields is that the aliens aren't the only ones who can make a hole in them - your shots will also create a tunnel through your protective bases!
So be warned that, even though it can be useful to burrow through your bases, from which to shoot (having afforded some protection from alien projectiles), it can also lead to an easy invasion for the invaders as, "all your bases are belong to us!"
Each and every successive stage becomes a little harder. Your shields and bases do not get repaired and the speed at which the invaders descend gradually increases. Sometimes another invading space ship appears and flies across the top of the screen - this one is different, however: it disappears at the edge of the screen rather than bouncing back like the standard waves and, should you destroy it, it gives you extra points.
It is not as easy to destroy as the regular ships - especially when a lot of other aliens are still alive and slowly making their way down the screen. You should remember that only one of your projectiles can be on the screen at any one time, so if your shot doesn't hit its target you will not be able to shoot again until it leaves the screen - as though the shot goes wide of its mark, instead firing off into distant space.
There isn't much to say about the game's technical detail. In 1978, graphics and sound weren't as important as the gameplay (unlike a lot of the games today) and contemporary hardware was, as always, a major limiting factor. The game looks as it does and always has - basic, elegant, and minimal - and the only sounds you will hear are the gunshots and explosions, and an alert when the lone alien spaceship zips its way across the top of the screen. The graphics and sound remain true to the original arcade classic, which is great. Instead of the clunky PC speaker effects, that many versions of this essential part of any retro-gamer's collection retain, we have Adlib quality sound. The increasing rhythm of the invader's approach adds a lot of atmosphere to the game and, even if the sound-effects are very simple - without these sounds, the game just wouldn't be the same.
Controls are unchangeable and are not what you'd traditionally expect in this type of game:
Left CTRL = Move left
Left ALT = Move right
Right SHIFT = Fire!
Esc = Quit
Now go kick some alien ass!
If you are playing this using DOSBox, through Windows, you will need to disable the StickyKeys (if you haven't already) through Control Panel. If StickyKeys are enabled when you play, because of the controls for this game, every 5th time you press the Shift button - a window will pop up asking you if you want to turn StickyKeys on.
Cycles around 3000 - higher cycles do not increase the game's playing speed. Setting them above 12,000 introduces gaming 'stutters' for some.