First there was Space invaders. Then there were millions of other games. And now here's Megaphoenix - which is exactly like Space invaders all over again. The wheel, it seems, has come full circle. The die is cast. The chips are complete. (Eh? Ed)
And I was there right at the very beginning! That's right, Spec-chums - your humble reviewer belongs to that ancient group of wrinklies who cherish fond memories of putting 5p's into Invaders machines (old 5p's mind) and playing for about 10 minutes before giving up (with scores of 2 million). We can't exactly remember when it was (because we're all so brain-dead and senile now), but, erm, we do know we had a darn good time.
And Dinamic would like you to have one now too. Yes! The little squibs are back- pooing deadly laser energy bolts and pogo-ing into you with all the energy of a ballistic missile (only not quite as well as they used to).
There are about ten levels of 'action'. You move your laser-base left and right, firing up at waves of aliens, who are also moving left and right, but much faster. Occasionally one'll swoop down with frightening speed, forcing you to either blast it, or scurry for the edge of the screen hoping it won't follow (which is a bit optimistic really, but worth a try). And that's about it. So let's take a close-up look at some of those levels, eh?
Level Two sees small eggs whipping from side to side in the sky above you, and the next one is much the same stuff, only now the eggs unleash huge big phoenixes when they split open (which then proceed to fire lots of horrible missiles at you). Then there's the actual megaphoenix itself, which swoops around dropping even more eggs onto you. Miss them in mid-air and they land next close by and shower you with deadly bits of shell (which aren't too good for your health). Kill the big bird in the sky and she'll blow up, giving you a special power weapon and leaving you free to go on to the next level, which is incredibly difficult to get through. This has got four of the smaller swooping-type aliens, and then a real big bast who you've got to shoot down while dodging the others. Coo, eh?
The bad news is that from then on it's all very repetitive. The only difference is that you get more (and better) weapons each time round - so things get slightly easier (but a lot more boring).
Not that Megaphoenix is a complete blueprint of Space Invaders of course. For instance, there aren't any shield to hide behind - instead there's a shield 'rating' which sort of protects your craft. One hit doesn't instantly kill you, but you need to wait for your defence to regenerate itself before wading in with your lasers blazing again. Also, the swooping aliens are rather new to the game (albeit very much like the ones in that other crinkly old chestnut, Galaxians). It's not completely unplayable either - every time you have a go you keep trying to get that little bit further. It's fast, it runs slickly, and the graphics and sound are good.
But let's not get too carried away. Quite simply, it's not a patch on the original. It feels tacky and cheap, it hasn't got any depth, and it's all far too 'Made in Hong Kong'-ish. As a budget it'd probably pass the test, but as a full-price, big boxed 'new' game (and one that held a lot of promise when we first heard about it, sob sob) it falls well short of the goodies.
Nope, if you're going to do something like this then you've really got to all-out on the fireworks. What we want is something with a fresh twist to it, something that's really big and colourful and operatic - like Taito's Super Space Invaders '91 (with lots of mad flying vows and things like that). It's exactly the same game design, just dressed up and tweaked, and made to stand out from a very drab and grey-coated crowd. And guess what? Domark are bringing out an 8-bit conversion of the very same game later in the year! (So we'd better hold onto our pennies 'til then, eh?)
Perfectly playable, but too much of an expensive Space Invaders clone. Go for a budgie imitator instead.
Waves of hideous aliens swoop down on your poor, petrified laser base. (Still, he's doing a pretty good job of holding them back!)
The galaxy's full of big bullies, and here's a good example. Why doesn't he go away and bother someone else?
Watch it - those eggs are deadly. (And they're usually dropped right on your head!)