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Mutant Hell Zones - Defender

On 08/07/2019 at 05:35 PM by Matt Snee

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defender atari

There was no shortage of apocalyptic games on the Atari. From Missile Command, to Yar's Revenge, to Space Invaders; things in the late 70s to early 80s looked grim. One of the pinnacles of this armageddon was none other than Defender, a true pessimistic classic. 

Tasked with piloting the single ship battling an extraterrestrial invasion, only you can save the Earth (as usual). As you fought against waves of aliens, their ships would descend and capture humans for their dastardly experimentations. Sometimes, if you shot the aliens down, the captured human would fall back to Earth and you'd get a chance to catch them in midair - if you failed, they died. 

Regardless, there was no hope. Eventually, enough humans would be captured for the aliens to create a human/alien hybrid mutant army that would then descend from the skies. The city below would be destroyed, and all that would be left would be you and the Mutant Hell Zone.

I like those odds. 



Cary Woodham

08/07/2019 at 09:06 PM

I certainly have respect for Defender, one of Eugene Jarvis' first games.  But as a kid, I didn't play it much in the arcade because the controls were too complicated for Little Kid Cary.  I liked watching the bigger kids play it sometimes, though.  I liked it when your ship exploded because it was all colorful on the screen.  Yeah I was easliy amused.

I do remember playing Defender on the 2600 like in your screenshot, though.  That one was simplified since it was on a home console with limited controls, but I liked it better as a kid because of that.  I remember being pretty good at it, too, when I'd play it over at neighbors and family's houses.

This year, Hallmark has a Christmas ornament shaped like a minature Defender arcade cabinet.  It makes Defender arcade sounds when you push a button, too.  It came out in July and yes I have it.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/11/2019 at 08:22 AM

Jarvis made good games. 

I don't think I've ever seen this in the arcade though. Not that I remember anyway. I remember watching my older siblings playing it on Atari though. 

Cary Woodham

08/11/2019 at 01:16 PM

Jarvis still makes good games.  One of my current favorites of his is Space Invaders Frenzy.

You never saw Defender in an arcade?  That's almost like never seeing Pac-Man in an arcade.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/11/2019 at 01:42 PM

I really don’t have any memories of seeing one. But maybe I have. 


08/07/2019 at 11:35 PM

I've always had trouble with the controls in Defender. It's that weird thing when you turn around and the screen seems to shift. I've tried to get a handle on it but failed. Hit detection too drives me nuts. Those aliens dodge around your shots making it really tricky to get a good shot on them. I find the game difficult. I keep going back to it now and again too see if something clicks. I really want to save those humans. 

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/11/2019 at 08:23 AM

ah, yeah I forgot the screen does that. Why is that? It is pretty annoying. 


08/11/2019 at 09:04 PM

It's more like, when you turn, it feels like you are going backwards for a few seconds while the space opens up in front of you. It's like you're flying on the far left of the screen, then you turn, and now you are on the far right of the screen. There's a moment where you seem to drift to the right. It's hard to explain, but it makes me feel like I don't have control of the ship. 


08/09/2019 at 05:10 AM

I had the Atari 8-bit, Ti-99/4A, and Game Boy Arcade Classics (Defender/Joust) versions of this game. It really was a classic, but the arcade controls were really complicated. I also played Stargate, its sequel, on 2600.  

It's funny how Defender, Joust, and Robotron used to be on every system under the sun, now they're kind of hard to find on current systems. Hopefully WB decides to dig a few games out of the Midway.Williams arcade vault. Until then, Balloon Fight will have to do for my Joust fix.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/11/2019 at 08:23 AM

Goddamn, I love Joust. I was pretty damn good at it too!

Super Step Contributing Writer

08/09/2019 at 11:40 PM

There are some existential readings of Atari games I'd rather not think about. 

Matt Snee Staff Writer

08/11/2019 at 08:23 AM

ha ha. Yeah, it's pretty depressing!


08/12/2019 at 05:59 PM

I watched some gameplay of this game and I would play this. There's a lot of stree in trying to catch a falling human but other than that shooting down the bad guys when the odds are against you always make the game that much better. 

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