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|Rating:||4 out of 5|
Defender was always an arcade favorite despite it being an extremely difficult game to master. Somehow pumping quarters into it was justified by the short games I was able to pull off. I once owned a Stargate upright cabinet and became pretty good at it, but as a kid in the arcade, Defender kicked my ass regularly.
I loved the Atari 2600 version that came out in 1981, so the graphic improvement was a welcomed feature to this classic side-scrolling shooter. Oddly Defender did notmake an appearance on the 7800. As with any 5200 review, I won't calculate the irritatingly awful controllers into the rating. They're so bad I had to build my own 5200 controllers.
Like many of the home conversions you have to take into account how the Defender arcade controls differed from those on the 5200 controller. The Defender arcade joystick was only a 2-way affair controlling your vertical movement on screen. The reverse button was used to change direction. Obviously this function went to the 4-way ability of the 5200 joystick along with thrusting. The arcade version had a button for thrust located next to your fire button, just above the smart bomb deployment button.
For the Atari 5200 version of Defender, the top fire button unleashes a smart bomb an the lower fire button shoots missiles. A warp into hyperspace is achieved by randomly pounding any button on the keypad... just when you thought 16 buttons was kind of excessive. For those astute enough to have bought the Trackball controller for your 5200, it's compatible with Defender although that seems like an odd match-up considering thrust is controlled via the directional joystick.
Imagine your surprise when your peaceful life on Humanis is interrupted by alien Landers swoop into cities and abduct Humanoids only to mutate them into a strong element of the enemy alien force. That would suck! Fortunately, you're the Captain of the Spaceship Defender on a mission to rescue humanoids from the alien force and return them to the city. Armed with missiles, smart bombs and a hyperspace option that warps you to safer ground you stand a pretty good chance of saving Humanis from the aliens.
Your mission is to rescue humanoids before they are turned into Mutants - a particularly nasty foe. In either 1 or 2-player modes you begin with 3 lives and 3 smart bombs - don't waste smart bombs if the screen isn't full of aliens. Once you've slaughtered all the aliens a new wave begins with increased difficulty. The Defender overlay lets you select the number of players, the difficulty level or kick back with a beer and watch the demo.
Each wave consists of Landers, Bombers, Swarmers, Baiters, Mutants and Pods. Landers scour the city for humanoids to mutate. Bombers lay mines which can't be destroyed. Swarmers arrive in pods and are released when the pod is destroyed and will track you very closely. Baiters show up towards the end of a wave and are much faster than your Defender ship. Mutants are transformed Humanoids and are the most dangerous enemy.
Every 10,000 points you get another life and another smart bomb. Hyperspace can be used anytime, but like Asteroids, it doesn't always take you to a safer area. the scanner at the top of the screen is your radar for locating enemies, determining what kind they are and where Humanoids are - both on the ground and in distress. At the end of each wave you get 100 points per surviving Humanoid multiplied by the number of the completed wave - up to 500 bonus points.
You'll know to check the scanner for a Humanoid being abducted when you hear their cry for help. You can blast the Lander and let the Humanoid fall to the ground or you can "catch" him and bring him to the ground - which gives you more points. In hectic situations, you can rescue and transport any number of Humanoids rather than bringing each one to the ground separately.
Fly low to help protect your Humanoids and don't stop firing!
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