DEFENDER 2000 REVIEW - January 1995
|"This time, we'll get it
right", sang the England World Cup squad of 1982, showing their clairvoyant
skills to be right up there with their ability to hold a tune. And to play football, come
to think of it. Still, the song might well have been prominent in Jeff Minter's mind
recently, as he took a second bite at the cherry of modernising all-time arcade classic
Defender. But is Defender 2000 heading for No.1, or is it going to get one of its
midfielders sent off in the middle of a sequence of coma-inducing 0-0 draws before
trudging Back Home in disgrace? Read on.
(Ripple dissolve). Readers with a long memory might recall Arc, Atari's one-time software publishing arm. No prizes for that, but award yourself a pat on the back if you also remember Arc's Defender 2, because most of us have been trying very hard to erase it from our minds.
Defender 2 brought conversions of Defender and its actual arcade sequel Stargate to the ST, along with Jeff's own take on a follow-up, a shambolic mess in dark blue. The actual conversions were a bit on the iffy side too, forsaking arcade authenticity for some of Jeff's more eccentric notions about gameplay including "Hey, wouldn't it be a great idea if your ship was controlled with the mouse and had autofiring?" Duh. This time, again, there are three games in the package. Let's waste no more time and take a look at them individually.
The first game is, allegedly, a straight conversion of original coin-op Defender. I say 'allegedly' because coin-op Defender had graphics about a quarter of this size, and was one of the meanest sons of bitches ever to swallow your entire week's pocket money in 35 minutes. For example. This is a terrible conversion, astonishingly easy (my pitiful all-time best on Defender is about 60,000 - first try on this one netted over 500,000 with the game only coming to an end when I deliberately shot all my own men out of boredom), and with the enemies exhibiting almost none of the characteristics of their coin-op counterparts (the previously-lethal Swarmers, for example, are dim-witted cannon fodder, while the supremely evasive Mutants charge straight into your laser fire without blinking). And with a perfectly good fire button sitting unused, the Hyperspace function is inexplicably, moronically, unalterably stuck away on the numeric keypad. Ugh.
Similar in many ways to coin-op Stargate, but with the same revolting all-blue colour scheme Jeff originally brought to his Defender 2. Still, horrible as it looks, the lightning speed and hordes of enemies make for a fast and pretty addictive blast, albeit one that you have to play almost entirely on the radar scanner.
Here's where it all goes really wrong. The graphics are huge, and to fit them in the game's been adapted to include vertical as well as horizontal scrolling. As a five-year-old child could tell you, this is a ridiculously stupid idea in a game based entirely around protecting little blokes walking along on the ground. How can you protect what you can't see? The error is compounded by the absurdly over-the-top graphics, with bright, overdetailed backdrops and eye-melting weaponry pyrotechnics serving to almost totally obscure anything you could actually see in the first place through the confusing blur of colour caused by the stupidly fast speed the whole thing moves at. That said, my first game saw me clear 30-odd levels, although I've got very little idea how.
Defender 2000 gets everything that could possibly have been gotten wrong in an updating of Defender, wrong. And perhaps even worse, it makes the staggeringly excellent Tempest 2000 look like a fluke. Most of the score below is for Defender Plus, but frankly you'd do a lot better to dig out your old ST and play Psygnosis' wonderful Anarchy instead.
Three different games
Defender Plus is quite addictive
You can't see what's going on...
... but it's still far too easy
Jeff Minter makes a complete mess of Defender - again. Let it go, Jeff.