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Domark Ltd
1991
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£9.99
£3.99
English
ZX Spectrum 128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

14,15
James Leach
Chris Bourne

Someone very important once said that history repeats itself. And the weird thing is, he was completely right. I mean, look at Waterloo. That happens two or three times a year on Radio 4. And the Battle of Agincourt is fought every year on the playing fields of Eton. And that bloke walking on the moon. I saw it last night on the telly. History does indeed repeat itself.

And in about 1437, after the dissolution of the monasteries and the wars of the tulips, a Japanese man wrote Space Invaders. It was a bit of a hit in ye olde arcades at the time, but was superceded in 1750 by loads of other games. (Are you sure about those dates, James? Ed)

Now it's back with a vengeance. Super Space invaders is everything the original was and much, much more. The basic idea (for anyone who's been living under a roof tile for the last 100 years), is that waves of aliens move down the screen blasting away at you. You slide from side to side, shooting up at the aliens, with the general xenophobic idea of wiping them out. If they get to the bottom of the screen (or shoot you), you're dead. And, uh, that's it.

Domark, once they got their sticky paws on the licence, have added a large amount of extra detail. For example, in the old Invaders, they just marched down the screen at you and one blast could kill them. Here, you get aliens that whizz around, take loads of damage, grow or size when hit and generally annoy you immensely.

The battle for the skies isn't that one sided though, thanks to the flying saucer that zips across the top of the screen. Whenever it appears you should do your damnedest to hit it because it drops terribly useful things.

THINGS?
Yes. Powerful weapons, shields, swiss army knives, that sort of thing. If you manage to catch the pods that drop out of the saucer, you could find yourself with smart weapons capable of clearing the entire wave. Now that's what I call music (er, to my ears).

As you'd expect, everything starts off pretty easy, but don't count your chickens, cos after the first couple of waves you'll be struggling. The hardest part is when you've managed to clear all but two or three aliens. You see, as the numbers of invaders gets less, they go quicker and quicker. They whizz from side to side at a fair old clip. You're timing will have to be spot-on to get 'em and you'll only have a couple of chances. Once they get to the bottom of the screen, they'll flatten your bonce as flat as a plaice that's been stamped on.

DOESN'T SOUND TERRIBLY ORIGINAL!

After every three screens, or thereabouts, you go up a level. What happens here is that the background changes. I haven't mentioned the backgrounds before because I didn't want to upset you. But I feel that, as we're a few hundred words into the review, you're old enough to face the truth. The backgrounds are crap. As works of computer art they're alright, but they're the same colour as the invaders. This means that you can see what's going on. Its impossible to see the invaders unless they move over a black part of the background, which makes it the most annoying thing in the world. It's even more annoying than trying to open a carton of milk and tearing it in the wrong place so that it a) spills out all over you and b) pours out sideways when you try to get some into a cup. That's how annoying it all is.

Each level introduces you to something new and nasty. For example on Level Two there are invaders which, when you hit them, double in width. You have to hit them again to destroy them. Unpleasant, eh?

And Level Three sees aliens which, when hit, turn into two separate aliens. It's both frightening and supremely horrid. Luckily, these two aliens die as normal when you blast them.

Super Space Invaders is a bigger and more complex game than it looks. Its fast, fun - and varied. But I can't pretend that the backgrounds don't make some of the levels totally impossible. So it doesn't get a Megagame, but it does come rather close.

Jolly good show, Domark. Pity some of the screens are quite impossible to clear, eh?

86%
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88%

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A SAUCERFUL OF WEAPONS

Vertical laser: swing this from side to side and it kills everything it hits. It only lasts a couple of seconds though, but if you're quick you can waste an entire screen of aliens.

Horizontal laser: flies up and destroys the bottom level of aliens, so it could kill between one and eleven of 'em. Plus you get two or three blasts, too.

Bouncing, um, things: these tear around the screen, completely annihilating everything they touch (except you). So sit back, have a nice cup of tea and let fly with one of these beauties.

Bases: catch this collectable and three bases (like in olden-days invaders) appear. They can only take a certain amount of damage, but by firing at them yourself, you can push them up the screen, then, it the aliens hit them they explode (the aliens, not the bases). Dead useful and no mistake.

Smart bombs: ha! These destroy everything! Rinse away those wash-day blues with a smart bomb and give your screen that April-soft lemon-freshness at a price that's right.

Double-fire: Normally, in everyday life, you can only fire a new bullet when the last one you shot has either hit an alien or blown up at the top of the screen. This can be quite a gap, but the double-fire pod allows you to fire two bullets at once. This means that you can blast away without aiming as accurately as you usually would. What's more - you can get away with it too. Great!

SPACE INVADERS - THE TRUE STORY

Not many people know the Mr Nishikado, who wrote the original Space Invaders, actually based it on a real occurence in 1977. It was Christmas Eve and what happened was a load of Japanese schoolkids, sitting waiting for Santa to appear in the sky above Hokkaido, saw row upon row of aliens advancing slowly from Venus. The clever kids realised the threat to Earth and quickly cobbled together a laser blaster from the hubcap, spark-plugs and battery of a parked car. They moved left and right, blasting the aliens out of the sky. After about four waves, the aliens gave up and the Earth was saved.

The next morning (Xmas day) the kids were rewarded with extra presents and figgy pudding. And that's how it happened. (Have you ever considered working for Jackanory, James? Ed)

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My theory is that the aliens are coming out of that huge wheel-thing orbiting Earth. No it can't be! Yes it is! It's a hub-cap from a 1979 Vauxhall Viva!

I told you! It's dead difficult to see a lot of the aliens against the complicated backdrops. Just fire at random, that's best.

Look! Here's a spooky kind of hideous space-lighthouse drifting through the eternal night.

Stupid, isn't it, how they line up to be slaughtered. Still, it makes things a fair bit easier for you - don't complain