Shoot ’Em Up!

CHRIS PASSEY & LLOYD MANGRAM revisit some old favourites in this, the first of our Game Type comparisons

Software houses seem hellbent on providing us with numerous versions of arcade copies. In August this year, Ian Sinclair of IJK (a software company who do games for the Oric and Beeb) said, ‘There seems to be a difference of opinion between the public and reviewers’ opinions of programmes.

‘The public loves arcade copies, while reviewers hate them, and original games have the opposite effect. I would like to see more comparative reviews with all the Space Invaders, for example, compared and the good and bad points of each shown.’

Since he said that, there has been plenty of evidence to suggest that original games do go down just as well with the public as old favourites and arcade copies; Imagine, Ultimate and Quicksilva have all proved it. However, there is a wealth of games on the same theme available for the Spectrum, so every month we will take a close look at a particular type and compare the various versions. Unfortunately there isn’t sufficient space to compare every single version in each case (pac man games are legion), but we have done our best to find a wide mixture. This month we take a look at Invaders and Galaxians.



There was general agreement from our two players that the Space Invader game, whilst good for its time, was pretty much out of date today, so that should be borne in mind when comparing it to some of the more original phoenix and galaxian games. However, Quicksilva’s Space Intruders was summarised as being a, ‘reasonable copy of the original arcade game.’

This is a close copy of the original. The aliens are a bit small but do include a wobbly mutant worth extra points, as well as the customary space ship across the top of the screen. Although this is a fast version, the shelters at the bottom of the screen disappear in blocks rather than the original’s erosion.

I was a bit disappointed with it, never having played this particular version before. The aliens were disappointing although there are four types as in the original, Invader games suffer from comparison anyway because they are older and there is much better software around.


A close copy of the original. Slightly better graphics than Space Intruders; for instance, the shelters erode away when hit, and the aliens are better drawn. On the other hand this is slower than the Quicksilva version, so it loses its interest pretty soon.

Another Invader copy which has dated badly. The graphics were more interesting than in Space Intruders, but generally far too slow to be much fun for long despite the machine code.


The graphics are fairly attractive but I think the arcade qualities of the game are low. You have three speeds of play but at each speed, of course, the relationship of the elements remains the same, and I found that skill didn’t enter into it. Avoiding the bombs is too much a matter of luck as the space allowed to dodge them is small and the relative rates of movement doesn’t seem right. I think the game suffers from being dated now.

Despite the use of the word Galactic in the title, this is more of an Invader type, but pretty simple at that. Romik manage to pack a lot of graphics onto the screen, a mothership sliding left/right across the top, 10 vertical bomb racks with 5 aliens per rack, and the occasional saucer floating around which is easy to hit. Hitting aliens is simple because they sit in a stacked row. Shooting the falling bombs is pointless because there isn’t enough room left. Sideways ship movement and rate of fire compared to the bombs is too slow. Generally fun to play, if not exactly arcade excitement level.


I suppose it’s a reasonable copy but where is the fuel and the mothership? The graphics are simple but quite fast and there is a choice of three speeds. Rate of fire is too fast, making it easy to exterminate the swooping hordes. You can use a Mikrogen II joystick if you’ve got one. I didn’t think it was worth the price asked.

I remember this one coming out and thinking it wasn’t bad at the time, although it doesn’t have the arcade original’s details. The graphics are reasonably smooth but I thought the aliens looked more like Invaders than anything else. Another drawback is that by remaining stationary you can still get a respectable score! One or two player games.


A much better Galaxian copy with the aliens using the original formations ie leader swoops down flanked by two generals making him harder to hit. Again, no fuel, no mothership. This was much more challenging than Mikrogen’s version especially on level 6, and is obviously better value at a pound less. One or two players and the game is Kempston compatible.

This is much better all round, bigger and better looking aliens, and explosions in hi-res graphics. It’s also got far more playing speeds — nine in all.


It’s got eggs, birds and eventually the mothership, but with the exception of the birds flapping their wings the graphics are boring. It is a reasonable copy but by today’s standards rather poor. The laser shield is almost too effective. There are several game/speed variations to experiment with, but on the whole uninspiring.

The speed of this phoenix version always takes my breath away, but I learned sometime back that it’s actually easier to get better scores by playing the higher speeds. In the slower speeds you try to be accurate (never a good idea!) but faster you seem to get a better rhythm going. Sadly the graphics are small and dull and the overall impression is disappointing.


This starts off with you having to shoot a flock of ballet-dancing red birds. If you’re successful they return with the blue weavers, which fire lasers straight down at you. Blast this bunch and they all come back with the white bombers, moving vertically down the screen. Finally the huge mothership is taken on but watch out for the suicidal guards! Graphics are smooth, excellent sound and great fun to play. Demo mode when not in use.

Firebirds is instantly appealing visually, with its cinema curtain opening and closing, and the brightly coloured and animated aliens. Good sound too. I particularly like the victory dance the firebirds do when you lose a life. Not easy to get to the mothership and frustrating when you’re within an inch and on your last life. A good, fast game.


‘Chuck, they know what yer doing and they’re out to get ya!’ She means the Mob, and they’re after the secrets of the safe — so are you. From the cover you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a 1940s Chicago adventure, but actually it’s an arcade game, where you run back and forth shooting at various things such as ‘lips’, things on legs firing lasers, little men, arrows, bomb-dropping helicopters, aircraft etc. Eventually you enter ‘dagger alley’ where men throw daggers at you. At level 25 you get a chance to open the safe. Additional hazards include indestructible falling tyres and a canine point-thief. Keyboard layout is quite good but I thought the man moves slowly. Also I think I spotted a bug in the scoring which sometimes gave me F lives and SSS points.

Despite its name and scenario, this is definitely a galaxian variant, and a rich one too. Dodging the tyres which gather in rows and fall on you gets to be difficult when at the same time you’re avoiding the other objects and the little dog that pops up now and again and steals points from you. Fortunately it’s a wrap around screen, otherwise it would all be impossible! Arcade seem to design games that look easy at first, but being so long tend to wear you down until you start making mistakes. I liked the way that towards the end of each screen the aliens get less and so it all speeds up enormously. Good spread of joystick options. Perhaps it’s only fair to point out that with 48K in play it has an obvious advantage over the other games in this bunch.


‘Dual Plasma Disruptors and Ion Thrust Drive’ is how Imagine describe the good ship Arcadia. They aren’t far wrong. This highly manoeuvrable ship has enough fire power to send the average aliens packing. Alas these are not average aliens (Atarian Battle Fleet with Imagine’s usual touch of humour). Twelve attack waves, each wave for a set period of time, each more suicidal than the last. It’s highly addictive, with superb graphics (fantastic coloured explosions) and the sound is good too. Definitely up to arcade standards.

Although graphically this is more simple looking than The Detective, it has to be considered as one of the shoot ’em up classics. They’ve given you a certain area of up/down movement as well as left/right. Each wave of aliens gets lower and lower, zooming in from the right each time. Keyboard positions are sensible, but you can use a Kempston joystick with the utility Softlink II, and Fuller joystick. If you enjoy the sort of games we’re discussing here, then I think this is going to be considered as one of the most addictive.


The points shown in columns A, B, C are percentages and represent the average between the two reviewers. Use of Spectrum includes graphics quality, sound quality and ease of keyboard control. The games are not listed in order of preference.

A — Use of Spectrum
B — Addictive Qualities
C — Value for money
D — Memory required
E — Recommended Retail Price (in £)

SPACE RAIDERS503540164.95
WINGED AVENGER503540164.95
THE DETECTIVE807585485.50

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