#19 Phoenix

Posted: 28th November 2014 by Jeroen in Games
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383rd played so far

PhoenixGenre: Shoot Em Up
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1980
Developer: Amstar
Publisher: Centuri/Taito

Phoenix appears to be another Space Invaders-inspired vertical shooter. Brilliant.

More interesting, the name of the game is not because of the connection to mystical birds – at least, not at first. The developers were based in Phoenix, Arizona, which is where it seems like the idea might have come from.

Our Thoughts

Phoenix initially follows the same setup as Space Invaders and Galaxian. Enemies attack you in waves, while you’re stuck at the bottom of the screen firing at them. The patterns are different for each level – showing how much the genre has already progressed – but it feels mostly like an evolution from this. On a similar note, enemies don’t just slowly come down, they fly down in fairly unpredictable patterns (but I’m sure the experts disagree).

The enemies themselves have a larger variety as well, some fairly standard birds that drop bullets, others that grow from eggs and, if you don’t kill them before they hatch, require multiple hits to kill. The formations and attack patters switch between levels too.

On the whole, the game is pretty tricky, but learnable. The enemies don’t come as fast initially, giving you time to come to grips with the controls and mechanics. It then slowly builds up the difficulty in the next few levels to become more difficult – we got to the fourth level in a few plays, but sort of got stuck there after it. It’s a shame, because we later found out the game only has five levels, and its boss is meant to be good. A separate level, where the big creature is supported by birds, but needs several attacks and different strategies to kill it, it’s not a matter of only shooting at it.

Cosmetically, the game mostly looks its age, although there are some nice touches – as bad as it sounds, the explosion when you get killed genuinely impressed us. The sound is pretty good too, with the background music being nice (or we thought so at least). It’s all decent, really.

Final Thoughts

The cool thing about going back to these older games is how quickly we can see games evolving in the early 1980s. A cool feature of this game over Space Invaders is how some of the enemies come in multiple parts i.e. you can shoot the wings off the birds first or just go for the torso. A small touch by modern standards but back then must have really thrown gamers for a loop. At only five levels long it’s good for a quick spin.