Friday 2 September 2016

Space Monster! (Philips Videopac G7000 / Magnavox Odyssey 2 review)

Developer: Magnavox
Publisher: Philips
Released: 1980

Space Monster is a single-screen shooter that was released in North America as Alien Invaders - Plus!

Confronted by a deadly space monster and its eight attacking robots your job is to wipe them out and save the planet. At your disposal is a mobile rocket launcher that fires upwards and interestingly if you take damage you don't immediately die; instead, you then need to run to one of the three protective bases and transform it into another launcher. If you're hit in the process you lose a point (the winner is the first to ten); however, defeat the robots and monster and you gain a point. While it undoubtedly takes heavy inspiration from Space Invaders (1978, Arcades), to call it a complete clone is unfair. For starters, the robots never drop downwards and actually have their own barriers. Also, your bunkers can't be destroyed while you're hiding behind them and instead you can take comfort in the safety they provide. The gameplay is more of the duck and cover variety than the action-oriented Space Invaders but I actually prefer its strategic aspects. It still has tons of intensity, especially when you've cleared all the robots and the giant, intimidating monster launches towards you from the top of the screen! The collision detection and controls are rock solid and it's a joy to duck in-and-out of cover with a high level of precision. Enemy A.I is also intelligently designed and their shots follow you around the playfield, which creates lots of suspense when you're desperately trying to run to another bunker! The only real issue is that enemies move in predictable, exploitable patterns, making it easy to win 10-0 every time. There's also no gameplay variants, unlike the 112 found in the Atari 2600 port of Space Invaders (1980).
Space Monster! is a smart update to the genre and it employs multiple layers of strategy to create an entertaining shooter. It refuses to be an outright clone and instead chooses to enhance the pre-existing gameplay by adding some unique twists that are tons of fun in their own right.
Random trivia: In Europe, this was released as cartridge number 22.

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