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|Rating:||4.5 out of 5|
Stargate (Later released as Defender II) is the Defender you wish you could have bought in 1981. Think of this release as a Defender that sucks less. In fact it's a great game and has a few new tricks - what a difference 4 years can make! Stargate hit arcades as the follow-up to Defender so it was only natural for this gem to appear on the 2600.
The adventure is the same - saving Humanoids from alien invaders who are out to abduct and mutate them. Facing up to 100 attack waves, you begin with 3 ships, 3 smart bombs and 6 seconds of Invisio. Every 10,000 points gets you another life, smart bomb and more Invisio. In addition to a few new alien foes, you'll also find some of Defender's familiar control options split between both the left and right joysticks for Stargate.
I'm not sure the best strategy for using 2 joysticks at once, but I welcome the challenge in an effort to add better control. Naturally this sacrifices the traditional 2-player possibilities, but you might get a friend to work the second controller and take out aliens in a co-op. Stargate's arcade controls consisted of a joystick and 5 buttons, so it's easy to see how incorporating the 2nd 2600 joystick would add to the gane's capabilities.
The left joystick is used in the traditional sense to move the ship on-screen and the fire button does just that - fires laser missiles as fast as you can push it. On the right joystick you'll find smart bomb, Invisio and Hyperspace. Smart bombs are deployed via the fire button. Moving the joystick forward activates invisio and pulling back warps you away from danger with hyperspace.
There are some familiar elements to Stargate that you'll remember from Defender for 2600. Smart bombs still blow away everything on the screen and hyperspace warps you away from danger, but you never know where it will return you. Rescuing Humanoids is the same - shoot the lander abducting a Humanoid and swoop in to pick him up, then deliver him to the ground below. You can carry multiple Humanoids and if a falling Humanoid is close enough to the ground he will return to safety.
The manual refers to an element as the Stellar Gateway. Um, isn't this the Stargate - the thingy that warps you to an area where a Humanoid is in danger? The game was called Stargate, right? Invisio is a pretty cool feature although I don't use it too much. Invoked from the right joystick, Invisio gives you about 2 seconds of invisibility. During this time you are still able to shoot laser missiles and destroy enemies by passing through them. Additionally, you can't be harmed by enemy fire. Cool!
If you survive to wave 6, your planet will be restored and every 5th wave following. In wave 5 (and every 10th wave following) you'll encounter a Yllabian Dog Fight in which the only aliens to contend with are Yllabian Space Guppies, Pods and Dynamos. Surviving that - every 10th wave offers up a Firebomber showdown where you'll be inundated by Firebombers.
You'll still contend with Landers who want to kill you as they attempt to abduct Humanoids. Successful abductions result in Mutants entering the screen and they are fast and rabid for you. Pods will release Swarmers when destroyed and Baiters apear when you take too long to finish a wave.
Yllabian Space Guppies will hone in on you despite the manual describing them as mindless. Firebombers are dangerous and need to be blasted early in a wave. Dynamos swirl around in a continuous pattern where as Phreds will thrust right at you. Finally thee are the Munchies who are looters that are small targets and move fast.
I remember the day we were at the arcade and found a Defender-like cabinet called Stargate. Looked like Defender, but it was brand new!
When these gems came to the Atari 2600, a toy company (Kenner) had already trademarked a product called Stargate and raised a stink with the Atari clan. In avoiding a lawsuit the Atari game was changed to Defender II.
No matter if you call it Defender II or Stargate, it's one of the most impressive games to arrive on the 2600. Get it and rejoice in "Defender done right"!
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