Commodore 64 coder Richard Bayliss was recently an x-force to be reckoned with. Now he's put together psychedelia and space invaders for its completely free sequel Let's Invade. Dave Edwards decides it's time to fire up his C64 emulator
Reviewed By Dave E In Micro Mart #1440Let's Invade
If you've kept track of the more recent releases for the Commodore 64, you'll have seen the name Richard Bayliss come up pretty frequently. Fearless in his tackling of different video game genres, he has produced a huge array of platformers, plus Sheepoid (MM #1378) and X-Force (MM #1374). So when you hear he's now turned his hand to Space Invaders, you sit up and take notice.
Let's Invade features the familiar game format - laser-base below, descending aliens floating above - combined with psychedelic backgrounds, strobe effects and scrolling messages. And before you all cry "Boring!" and flip the page, those effects make this game stand head and shoulders above the original.
Yes, it may start up with the pounding sound of Taito's Super Space Invaders (familiar to all those who frequented the arcades in the late 70s) but whilst the first versions of Taito's coin-op were lumbering, green-screen affairs, Let's Invade adopts the familiar into something quite fresh and exciting.
Firstly, there's the aliens themselves, who have mushroomed in size. A pack of fifteen or so dominates an entire screen. Your laser-base has similarly ballooned. The sprites remain the 8x8 characters from days of olde, but Bayliss might easily have named this "Godzilla Invaders" - they are the biggest sprites I've seen.
As in the original, all the aliens are a single colour. But, whilst many of them here die from a single shot, others have further properties. For example, the light blue aliens simply turn dark blue when hit the first time, a second hit is needed to finish them. Other aliens give you power ups or extra lives when shot and there's a helpful splash screen that explains as much before you commence play. The game is over when any alien touches the bottom of the screen; at which point the scrolling message at the top helpfully announces "INVADE!".
During the game, the C64's SID chip flies into life with an impressive selection of tunes which perfectly complement the visual assault upon the senses that is the game itself. The backgrounds change colour, their patterns scroll in different directions and there are increasingly random effects as you progress further. Everything glides around the screen very responsively. In fact, it's almost perfect.
Almost, but not quite. The main difficultly is that the bullets which the invaders rain down upon you are the same colour as the invaders which fire them. Against that constantly changing background, they are difficult to see and, because everything is so big, if you don't pick them out quickly, they will deal out a very frustrating death. Your bullets are always yellow and easy to see; if theirs were also yellow it would alleviate this problem.
Although you don't really need instructions for Space Invaders, there is a full instruction manual. It's worth reading it, not just for a description of the power ups but because the presentation of Let's Invade involves several "demo-like" introductions that end up making loading it rather complicated (especially if you're playing using WinVice). It wasn't until I read them that I could get the game to even start, which was a bit irksome.
Let's Invade is an impressive Space Invaders clone - it's fast and furious even from the very first level but it's the psychedelic elements that really propel this into the Commodore 64 Hall Of Fame. It's not possible to describe exactly how these inject the game with the power that surges through each attempt. But it winds up being so compulsive a game that anyone who dares to challenge it may well also be rifling through the Bayliss back catalogue to check out his other creations (especially Sheepoid) shortly afterwards. It really is very good.
Let's Invade is available to download for free from http://csdb.dk/release/?id=151230