Saturday 20 February 2016

Alien Raiders / Space Blitz (Microvision review)

Developer: Milton Bradley
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Released: 1981

Alien Raiders is a shoot-em-up that was released in Europe as either Space Blitz or just Blitz.

In many ways the gameplay shares similarities with Space Invaders (1978, Arcades) except it takes place on a horizontal plane rather than vertical. The objective is to use your cannon's beam to hit as many aliens as possible as they approach from right-to-left; if an invader manages to reach the left-hand column the game ends. You don't physically control the cannon as it automatically moves up and down; this means that you constantly have to strategise and decide which of the four enemies to take out next as they enter at different speeds. To shoot you press the Fire button and use the control knob to change the size of the beam; the beam must be at exactly the right length to hit the invader as firing too long or short will miss the intended target. Each time you use the beam a small quantity of fuel is used up but after every eighth alien is destroyed you gain a top-up. To start with it's difficult to be accurate due to the fact that there's no indicator to show how far your beam will travel in its current setting; twisting the control knob to change its length is mostly guesswork too and it's a fiddly and unintuitive setup. However, instead of tapping the fire button you can just hold it down which results in a constantly firing beam; this acts as a target indicator meaning it's easier to see the distance between your shot and the alien (so only minor tweaking of the control knob is then required). I found it to increase my enjoyment of the game as well as the length of my individual attempts as I was able to stay alive longer. It's addictive trying to play for a high score as you constantly need to multitask by analysing enemy positions and deciding which ones offer the highest threat, speed and location wise. There's also a Game 2 option (which increases the number of enemies on screen from four to a possible six) and a Skill Level 2 (increases game speed). The latter is extremely difficult as you need cat-like reflexes to stay alive for more than a few seconds!
Alien Raiders is an interesting take on Space Invaders and considering the display limitations of the handheld the developers did a good job replicating the Arcade experience. While the control scheme is a bit awkward those that take the time to master it will find a fun shooter that's ideal for high score competitions. 
Random trivia: The only other Microvision game to be released in 1981 was Cosmic Hunter.

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