Defender

  • Williams Electronics

  • FormatArcade & Video Games
  • TypeShooter
  • SystemArcade

Pinball wizards Williams hit the target with this classic sidescrolling shooter,  Defender added more context and reason to blast enemies out of the sky than other shooters out at the time. 

The ‘catch and rescue’ directive gave an added dimension to the game

As the name suggests Defender required you to protect your planet’s inhabitants from invading aliens. Piloting your laser equipped fighter with ‘thruster’ technology, you to dart across the planet’s landscape, saving your people, blasting invaders and racking up points in the process.

The ‘catch and rescue’ directive gave an added dimension to the game, and despite being regarded one of the hardest old school games, it’s still compelling to play.

Surviving the onslaught would sometimes feel like you should’ve been to space cadet academy 101. A two-way joystick stick allows you to adjust your altitude, with a button to engage your jet engine, and a button to fire. Add to this a ‘reverse’ button and smart bombs, and you soon realise that this game was designed to sort the men from the boys. Avoiding invaders as they warp into your field of play can be infuriatingly tricky as is dodging their projectiles, requiring timed use of your thrust, an itchy trigger finger and quick-smart reflexes. A radar scanner offers some guidance, providing an indication of where enemies are and which direction to move. There are five types of alien scum; ‘Bombers’, ‘Swarmers’, ‘Pods’, ‘Baiters’ and ‘Landers’, the last of which would ‘spacenap’ the humanoids from the planet’s surface, elevating them into the cosmos to be turned into mutants.

Defender grabbed attention at the time for its colourful graphics, cabinet rattling sfx, and novel side-scrolling setting. Particle-effect explosions and spectral coloured laser beams made it stand out from earlier space shooters from which it drew inspiration. Developed by Eugene Jarvis, previously a Pinball programmer at Williams, Defender became their most successful arcade machine. It could be considered as the first of the now conventional side-scrolling shoot-em up, and its ‘high-action’, ‘reflex’ based game style is still as much of a thrill as it is a test to play.

Defender Arcade Gameplay
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Defender Arcade Restoration

  • Williams Electronics

  • FormatArcade & Video Games
  • TypeShooter
  • SystemArcade

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