Standing happily on the shoulders of Space Invaders and enjoying the view while it's there, Galaga is what happens when a game developer poaches a fine concept and genuinely bothers to enhance it. Making it bastard hard didn't hurt either - those 10p pieces can't earn themselves...

A top-down shoot' em up in the most classic of styles, and itself a successor to Galaxian, Galaga shows just how far the genre had moved in a short space of time. Enemies no longer uniformly paraded along the top of the screen in a doomed procession, but instead burst onto the scene from the top, bottom and sides to get the jump on any slovenly players. Respite isn't something the game deems worthy of offering; happily keeping your lone fighter on its toes by chucking in near-continuous streams of foes -- often within seconds of the previous attack.

And while the first level found the dastardly invaders only spitting down a few of their no-longer-straight-falling missiles, within minutes of playing mayhem is well underway. The screen positively fills with bullets and enemy craft of increasing tenacity (including those which require multiple doses of laser fire to be dispatched), making the game as much a test of quick reactions as it is an itchy trigger figure. When a ship then targets the bottom of the screen with a leftover traction beam prop from an old Star Trek episode, you can almost feel the title pushing at the fences of its relatively limited technology. Further evidence that solid thinking has gone into the question of how to evolve an already established gaming concept.

1

Despite being beset by a couple of bugs that are almost cherished by the emulation community (there's a reason why the best players play as player two), Galaga earns its status as a classic shoot 'em up. Though it may lack complex artificial intelligence algorithms, and merely shrugs in bewilderment at any mention of a 'cut scene,' conceptually it can still give modern shooters a real run for their arsenal. Every cheat code is welcome, though...

9 /10