Williams - 1980
Machine: Arcade, and many others
Genre: Vehicle Shooter
I suppose Defender was the next step forward on from 'Space Invaders' and 'Asteroids.' Instead of one static screen, you could fly around left and right, up and down. Crucially, the aliens were less predictable than the ones in ' Space Invaders' meaning that you had to keep adapting your strategy as you played. Your job was to 'defend' a group of people who were being snatched by those naughty aliens. You have to stop (read: shoot) the aliens before they carry off the little ones. If you manage to shoot an alien that is carrying off one of your charges, it drops the abductee. You have to try and catch it before it hits the ground (splat) If an alien manages to take one of the people, it transforms into a more aggressive and annoying alien... In fact, there are loads of different aliens for you to shoot and THEY ARE TOUGH. Luckily you have a generous supply of smart bombs to use at critical moments. Three of them.
This game is unbelievably addictive, constantly tricking you into making silly mistakes, slyly inviting you in for 'one more go.' I suppose the main point of it is to break onto the high score table which has the novel idea of two separate tables: 'Today's Greatest' and 'All Time Greatest.' I liked to think that if you got onto the All Time Greatest list, you could pull anyone in the universe... Unfortunately I was never good enough to test my hypothesis.
Like all classic arcade games this has terrific sound effects, very retro and oddly threatening. Nowadays, Arcade machines rely on loud music, explosions and shouting to build atmosphere and attract customers... there was a time when arcade machines made sounds that were somehow crunchier and more seductive. I remember wandering around arcades listening to these machines and being both intimidated and excited by the sounds and the flashing lights...but I would always return to those machines, controlling my fear, and standing on my tip toes while I played. Defender was one of those games, and although I hated to admit it, I liked it when people watched me play. Even though I was rubbish.
Bubbaray 11 Mar '04
Play online - In Midway's online arcade.
Wikipedia's Defender page - Lots of great information and links.