Because….Star Wars. Video games released in the late 70s and early 80s were drenched in glow-in-the-dark space themed goo. Space this and solar that. Alien this and UFO that. Magnavox was no exception with some of their earliest releases and they were also not above trying to give Odyssey² owners similar games that could be found in arcades or on the Atari VCS.
Alien Invaders-Plus (don’t ask what the plus is for) is at its basic level, a Space Invaders clone. Except way less fun. There are only two rows of “aliens” to shoot down, one of which look like mushrooms. There is a floating alien-eye-octopus (the influence for Kang and Kodos maybe?) at the top of the screen that demands your attention whenever it arrives. You want to shoot it down so, so badly. Beneath the aliens is a shield layer that you have to try and shoot around when the aliens are moving back and forth. To be honest, this ends up being more annoying than strategic. Like Space Invaders, you have bunkers to hide underneath but once you’re hit, you turn into a measly human running for his life and you must turn one of your own bunkers into a cannon to save your hide. Once all of your bunkers and cannons are gone and you’re just that last frantic man running around on the ground, the eye-alien-octopus will swoop down and take care of your pathetic human ass. Alien Invaders-Plus’s graphics aren’t anything to write home about thanks to the obnoxiously bright colors. If you couldn’t tell, I don’t care for this game in the slightest.
Cosmic Conflict doesn’t fare much better. It’s an early first person space shooter where you maneuver your ship’s sights to blast enemies out of the sky. Enemies supply ships move innocently horizontally and diagonally across the screen while enemy fighters come directly towards you as noted by the “Alert” siren. Moving your ship, firing and getting hit will all decrease your fuel level. Your mission is to destroy a combination of 15 total enemy ships before your fuel runs out. Achieve this goal and you are treated with a message that scrolls across the screen essentially notifying you that your mission is complete and the enemies are retreating. Fail in your goal and you are instructed to return to the base for your court martialing. Bummer! Cosmic Conflict has even less going for it than Alien Invaders-Plus and there aren’t even any additional skill levels to choose from to make the game more challenging. There’s not much of a game here.
Invaders from Hyperspace keeps with the trend of early Odyssey² games holding up less than amazingly. IFH is a 2 player game where you take on an opponent to become the first to blast 10 UFO ships, but damn if that isn’t hard as nails! The UFOs shoot a lightning fast laser in your direction as soon as you’re within it’s sights. There are bunch of floating planets that you can use to duck and cover as soon as you take your shot but when you get hit by a UFO, which you will….often, you can only regenerate another ship once there is a planet the same color as yours on screen. You can shoot planets while you’re alive to get them to change colors to match your own ship, but your opponent, plus the UFOs will also shoot them and change their color anyway. I didn’t care for this extremely difficult and frustrating game either and I wanted to quit shortly after giving it a try with one of my daughters. They didn’t get how the game was supposed to work and I kept dying and then having to wait until a planet changed to my color before I could rejoin. Not for the impatient I guess.
That brings us to Freedom Fighters, which on the surface appears to be a less pretty version of Defender (which honestly wasn’t all that pretty on the VCS as it was). Freedom Fighters is bare bones in appearance, with its generic black background, your single colored ship moving around attempting to blast enemies (noted as Empire’s Pulsar warships and hunter/killer drone mines) while rescuing humans floating in space in purple confinement crystals. Grabbing humans while simply staying alive is a huge part of the game since blasting enemies & avoiding mines is extremely difficult due to their small size and large quantities. Apparently Freedom Fighters can be played by 2 players co-operatively with player two utilizing your ship’s hyperspace mode. I don’t see how this would be very effective and it’s way too cumbersome to manipulate both controllers with one person. This gameplay element was likely just a way for Magnavox to include the hyperspace option that was so recognizable to Defender fans, using just a one button controller. It would have been equally as ineffective to make one of the console’s keyboard buttons operate hyperspace for a much more talented Freedom Fighters player than me to attempt. The game contains another option where you aren’t given a laser to defend yourself with, so you can only evade enemies & mines while rescuing humans. The longer you stay alive, the more points you rack up. I can’t see this version being very fun long term but it was an interesting novelty. Like Defender, Freedom Fighters is a bit too difficult to make it a huge winner for me, but at least it’s a fully formed game unlike the previous three entries.
Currently in my collection:
Alien Invaders-Plus – game, manual, box C-
Cosmic Conflict – game, manual, box D-
Freedom Fighters – game, manual, box B
Invaders from Hyperspace – game, manual, box F