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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Space Invaders Arcade - High Score Tutorial & Tips

Space Invaders Arcade - High Score Tutorial & Tips

Space Invaders can be a grueling game when you initially pick it up with a shoot first and ask questions later mindset.  However, if you steady your wits and attack the invaders with a tactical approach your new personal best high score will be well within reach.  This tutorial is here to help you do just that.

I first learned of this technique by watching the current world record high score holder of 184,870 points, Richie Knucklez, at a video game festival held by Twin Galaxies.  Needless to say when I first saw it I was amazed, and somewhat puzzled.  "What the heck is going on here?"  "Why is he not dying when the invaders fire from the bottom?"  "How the heck is he getting 300 points for each flying saucer?"  These were just of a few of the questions going through my mind while watching him.  Well, through much befuddled research and by trying my best to remember what he was doing here is what I figured out.  

*As a side note, this may not be the exact tactic he used or uses, but this is what I do and it works well for me.  There are certain areas in my game where I can see a bit of room for improvement, so this tutorial is still a work in progress.

First Watch The Video:

Now that you have seen what i'm doing let me explain it first as a whole, and then step by step.

The main idea behind this tactic is to achieve the highest amount of points possible from every flying saucer that passes along the top of the screen, while systematically destroying each invader one by one.  This is achieved by making a column space in the invader wall and using a specific firing pattern which triggers the 300 points for each flying saucer.  This technique is also made possible by the fact that the invaders, once at the bottom most level, are unable to hurt you.  However, if the invaders on the bottom row are not cleared before they move down one more row to the kill zone, your ships level, its game over.  This holds true no matter how many lives you still have.

The General Rules For High Score Play:
1: Clear two columns of space invaders minus the very last row on the appropriate side for the level with 22 shots or less
2: Avoid hitting any other space invaders, and with your 23rd shot hit the flying saucer for 300 points
3: Every other flying saucer hit from here on out until all the invaders are cleared from the level should be on your 15th shot, netting 300 points each.

Sounds easy enough, now how to pull it off?  Well, if you follow the firing method mentioned above the flying saucers will come from the sides of the screen in a very predictable manner.  As long as you stick with the pattern they will always come at you like this: 

First one comes from the RIGHT
Next two come from the LEFT
One from the RIGHT
Two from the LEFT

This pattern for the saucers continues until you are down to your last two rows of invaders and then no more will show up until you reach the next screen, at which point you repeat the firing process over again, starting at your 23rd shot for the first saucer, and your 15th shot for each saucer thereafter.

If you watch the video again you will notice that my firing pattern changes a few times throughout the game.  Although at some points it may just be that I lost track of my numbers, or that I was distracted somehow, most of the times there is a reason for it.  Once the invaders get to the bottom row, you have to account for the number of invaders you have to kill to clear the row into your 15th shot saucer kill pattern.  When you have the two columns of invaders cleared, that leaves you with 9 invaders per row.  As you will see in the video I generally fire 5 shots, kill the row of invaders, and still have my 15th shot for the saucer when this happens.

Now, besides which side two clear your two columns on for each particular screen, which I will cover in the next section, the only other tricky part left is how to survive the last row of invaders.

Once your reach the bottom row of invaders you want to first kill the single invader separated by the column, then make your way to the last invader, moving in the direction of it during each kill until you get to the 2nd to last invader in the row.  Stop and kill the 2nd to last invader and then immediately change your direction to move AWAY from the last oncoming invader and fire upon it once it passes over your firing port.  Watch the video again during the last row and you will see what I mean.  Again, if you fail to kill the last invader, no matter how many lives you have it is GAME OVER.  It is crucial to get this down.

Column Clearing Pattern:
In order for this pattern to work on each screen there is a specific side of the screen you need to clear your columns on.  If you watch the video above you will notice I change sides every few levels or so.  This pattern is NOT random, and goes as follows.

Level 1: Right Side
Level 2: Left Side
Level 3: Left Side

Level 4: Right Side
Level 5: Right Side
Level 6: Right Side
Level 7: Left Side
Level 8: Left Side
Level 9: Left Side
Level: 10: Left Side
Level 11: Left Side

There are an infinite amount of levels in Space Invaders so the list does not stop here, however after level 11 the pattern simply repeats itself in the same manner as from level 4-11.  So starting level 12 you do your columns to the right for three levels, and starting level 15 you do your columns on the left side for the next 5 levels and so on.

Also, once I hit the right side of the screen in levels 4-6 I change my firing pattern up a bit.  It allows me to get 300 points for each saucer minus the last one which I always hit for 100 points.  If you go to the 8:26 mark of my video you will see what I am talking about here.  What I do different is first I clear the column on the right as usual, fire the 23rd shot on the oncoming invader from the right, THEN I fire 13 shots here instead of 14.  I now wait for the invaders to reach the bottom level, kill the single invader to the right, (14th shot), and before moving over to kill the rest of the invaders hit the saucer with my 15th shot.  After the saucer I kill the remaining 8 invaders making my way to the right again, fire 5 empty shots, (back at 13 again), and do the same thing.  This only works for the first two rows, after those I break the pattern and fire no extra shots after killing the bottom row of invaders.  Once you are down to the last two rows of invaders the saucer will come in from the left side and can easily be shot for 100 points.  There may still be a way to get 300 out of it, I just haven't figured it out yet.

Once the column pattern is back to the left side the firing pattern is business as usual.

A Few Last Words Of Caution
This game is old and glitchy as hell, even in the Space Invaders Deluxe (Which this guide still works for), and MAME versions.  Sometimes when the invaders move down a level you just die.  Don't worry you didn't do anything wrong, it just happens.  This is really on frustrating when you are going for a record at your local arcade, or even just a personal best, and because of this I personally tip my hat to Richie Knuckelz for his high score.  I can only imagine the arcade gods shined on him during that day when he set his record and kept the glitch monsters at bay.  There are also times when you shoot a saucer that it will not die.  AND, sometimes you will kill a saucer and fire at the 300 point mark at the top of the screen and hit it and it counts for more points.  This is far and few between though.  Glitches happen...  You have been warned.

Also, as a last tip.  If you are doing the firing pattern correctly as far as the numbers are concerned, and yet for some reason the ships are coming at you differently, it is likely you are not firing off the pattern fast enough, or at least that has been my experience.  99% of the time the pattern holds true if you execute it properly.

So, practice up, hit your local arcade or open up some MAME and get your patterns down, and let us know how it goes by posting a response in the YouTube video comments.

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