That’s Stargate in a nutshell. Defender with even more stuff in it.
The basics are all there and work as they did before, but now there are more types of enemies, mostly intended to harass you while you fight off the landers, or to provide a fiercer opposition during the mop-up phase. Every five rounds is a dogfight, where you contend against an overwhelming force of new baddies, although none are as nigh-impossible as the swarm of mutants that you’ll have to face if you lose your last humanoid.
To aid you, you’ve got one new weapon; an “Inviso” cloak device, which also makes you invulnerable for a few precious seconds. In fact, the invisibility part is really just a liability, as it prevents you from seeing your ship, but the enemies don’t seem to behave any differently. I had a hard time getting accustomed to using it, much like hyperspace, by the time I knew it could save my hide, it was too late for me to react, and it was difficult to find situations where it could be used proactively.
In addition, the levels have a “Stargate,” which teleports you to any humans in trouble, but also sometimes dumps you right in the path of an oncoming foe. Advanced players can also use the stargate as a level warp by bringing four humans into it, which triggers a hyperspace jump and a big score boost.
During the title screen, you can press a button to view a “secrets” screen with some ingame pointers.
Stargate also allows you to “reinforce” your fleet by inserting two coins before play, which grants 4 additional ships, smart bombs, and seconds of Inviso. I took this option, naturally. There’s no further reinforcing once the game starts, except for the periodic 10,000 point award, carried over from Defender and with the additional bonus of Inviso time.
All of the old enemies return and are as nasty as before. The new ones are:
- Space Guppies – Kind of like swarmers, but less aggressive and evasive. But they don’t wait in pods, so they are a more immediate threat to you while hunting landers.
- Dynamos – Relatively tame, they regularly spawn slow-moving “Space Hums.” Like bombers, a low priority target, but a bit more threatening as the Space Hums do target you rather than just float around.
- Phred and Big Red – Crude Pac-Man parodies, these will sometimes spawn if you are taking too long to finish a level, and will chase you around and spawn smaller “munchies” which also chase you around. I’d rather deal with them than deal with baiters (though Stargate has those too), and Inviso makes short work of them.
- Firebombers – The worst new enemy. Big enough targets, but they tend to dodge shots, often move too high for your ship to reach them, and then wrap around to the bottom where they put humanoids in your line of fire. But they can be “pushed” into the middle of the screen by exploiting this behavior, where you have a better chance of gunning them down. They fire rarely, so they aren’t much of a threat when hunting landers, but their projectile is fast and accurate enough to make engaging them risky, and their death explosion sends a shower of particles across the screen, obscuring things like enemy bullets.
In my best attempt I made it to wave 10, where I had to face off against swarms of firebombers, and depleted most of my special weapons in doing so. Wave 11 was just too much; without having multiple bombs or much Inviso, I couldn’t stop the landers from destroying the planet, and then fell to the onslaught of mutants, ending with a score of over 149,000 points, just a few hundred short of a modest reinforcement.