Without Space Invaders, the great grandaddy of the shoot ‘em up videogame (well, OK, there was Space War before that, but hands up how many of you have actually played that!), there are a whole slew of games from the early eighties that we might never otherwise have had. Galaxian was one such game which owes Space Invaders at least a tip of the hat.
Galaxian took the general premise of Space Invaders, that of shooting a bunch of aliens lined up at the top of the screen, and made it more exciting by making the aliens behave in a more natural manner for an aggressive attacker from outer space. That is, instead of just plodding slowly along the top of the screen and occasionally moving downwards, these guys would break rank and attempt to dive bomb the player ship.
Instead of the aliens just appearing in rigid formation at the top of the screen, they would first zoom on from the top and sides of the screen in a curvy conga line, firing missiles as they went. If you were quick enough to position your ship in the right place you could actually take out most, if not all, of the aliens before they finished their path to the top of the screen.
As each wave of aliens finished their entrance pattern, they would line up at the top of the screen and slowly jiggle from side to side whilst they waited for the rest of their brethren to join them.
Once all the aliens had reached the top of the screen, they would fire more missiles down at you, and every so often a couple of them would break off and fly right down to the bottom of the screen, attempting to kill you either via more missiles, or in kamikaze fashion.
That wasn’t the only trick up their sleeve though. The ultimate insult was when one of the bigger aliens (who incidentally took two shots to kill) would come down and tractor beam up your ship, returning with it to the top of the screen where it then became part of the alien attack force!
These new features, particularly the dive bombing tactic, which never failed to illicit a quick feeling of panic from the player, added a whole new lease of life to the far more rigid game play of Space Invaders. Improved visuals (multi colour, animated aliens with nary a strip of coloured film stuck over the monitor in sight) and a much needed boost of speed meant that it wasn’t long before Galaxian (and to be fair a host of other very similar games) had toppled Space Invaders from its perch.