Space Invasion


Review by Bruce Consolazio



Graphics: 7

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Programmed in 1998, this game was John Dondzilla's second and (unfortunately) last serious gaming effort for the ColecoVision, a follow-up to his 1997 game Star Fortress.

As the name and appearance both clearly imply, this is a game that is very similar to the 1978 arcade smash, Space Invaders. The object of the game is simple: you are a small laser base at the bottom of the screen, shooting at a block of 55 invaders, who march across the screen, getting lower and lower each time they reach one of the sides. You must avoid their laser bombs and prevent them from reaching the bottom of the screen by destroying them one at a time. Periodically, a UFO flies by at the top of the screen; shooting it yielded extra points. The game was followed in 1980 by the sequel, Space Invaders Deluxe. It was different mainly in that the UFO could appear and disappear as well as drop down reinforcements, and a number of invaders, when shot, would split into two smaller invaders.

Space Invasion has two gaming options: a "regular" and a "deluxe" option. Both games are one-player only. Both the regular and deluxe versions play pretty much like the arcade versions, but with several significant differences. For one thing, the UFO values really are randomly determined. In the arcade version, in each new screen, if you hit the UFO with your 23rd shot, and then every 15th shot thereafter, it would yield the maximum value of 300 points. Since this isn't the case here, don't bother counting your shots. Another, even more important, difference, is the fact that the "death row" trick does not work here. In the arcade version, when an invader was one row up from the bottom, right above you, its shots could not harm you. This fact allowed professional players to use a system that could make a game last for many hours. In Space Invasion, you are always vulnerable. Also, in the deluxe version of Space Invasion, the UFO does not reinforce the invaders; rather, from the second screen on, it drops a fast, indestructable bomb that bursts upon hitting the ground.

The only way to describe both versions of Space Invasion is "utterly professional." It is obvious that John Dondzilla really understands how to program a ColecoVision, and his skill probably exceeds all but that of the very best ColecoVision programmers in the 1980s (it equals those).

The regular version of Space Invasion is well done, but is not overly challenging. Unlike the arcade, in which only the lowest invaders in a column could drop a bomb, in this version ANY invader can do this. Obviously, the higher the invader, the more time you have to react to the bomb. Since the invaders never start any lower than right above the shelters, you can usually get to the right side of the screen and, from the comparative safety of the rightmost shelter, pick off all but a few of the invaders. As a result, even though the "death row" trick does not work here, the game just isn't really that challenging. It isn't so much easy, just not hard enough.

The deluxe version, on the other hand, is an altogether different story! In this version, from the second screen on, certain invaders can split into two green ones. The "new" invader always appears in the space to the right of the original one, even if that space is already occupied. This means that, no matter how you shoot the invaders, you will need a good deal more than 55 shots to destroy the entire force. By the 4th screen, almost all of the invaders in the lower 3 rows can split, making your work much more difficult! What's more, the UFO can now drop bombs which, while not hard to dodge by themselves, can easily get you if you are in a corner or pinned down by the invaders' bombs. And, when the UFO flashes on and off, it is somewhat harder to hit. The deluxe version only looks easy. No matter what strategy you try to use, it always has a weakness somewhere. Thus, this game is very challenging, and requires a little luck. 50,000 points is a pretty good score in this version.

An interesting aspect to Space Invasion is the fact that this is the first home version of any "Space Invaders" game I've ever played in which your shots and the enemy bombs can affect each other. If they hit each other your shot is always destroyed, but one of three things can happen to the enemy bomb: nothing; it can be deflected a bit to the left; or it can disappear and reappear over the rightmost shelter.

The graphics in Space Invasion are true to their arcade inspiration- from 1978 and 1980. This and this alone is why the graphics did not get a higher rating. In the regular version the screen is black, green, and white, resembling the color-overlay look of the arcade machine. The deluxe version uses more colors, and they are very well-chosen; the game looks especially good here, right down to the red dotted line at the bottom of the screen. When you shoot a UFO, the number of points you have just earned appear in its place. On the right side of the screen is an information bar, well-placed and well-done.

Sound is good, although different from the arcade version. It works nicely here.

There are some extras in this game that elevate it above most third-party efforts from the 1980s. There are VERY impressive title and information screens, and, when you shoot one of the two bottom invaders in the leftmost column in the deluxe version, laser shots fan out and up from that point, and you earn 500 or 1000 bonus points (depending on which of the two you shot last)- the number of points appears on the information bar. Also, in the deluxe version, between screens, a UFO carries an invader to the top of the screen, while S.O.S.!! appears on the right.

Space Invasion is simply another winner from an ever-increasing number of them from homebrew programmers. The game is superbly programmed, and for fans of the arcade originals, very satisfying. The deluxe version is especially good, and makes this cartridge highly recommended. Even if you buy the new Space Invaders Collection for the ColecoVision, you should still consider adding this game to your collection. John Dondzila has also programmed a similar game for the Vectrex.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:32 PM