I do believe that the first video game I ever played was Berzerk for the Atari 2600, but I frankly can't be absolutely sure about this. What I actually do know though is that TI Invaders for the Texas Instrument TI 99/4A home computer was the first game I could call my own and play at home, provided of course I were a good little gnome. And I absolutely loved it (playing the game, not behaving that is); it did after all look and play so much better than Space Invaders on my cousins' 2600 and was actually better than the eponymous glorious game glimpsed in arcades.
I also remember being rather good at it too, but that was probably the result of spending more hours playing TI Invaders than anyone else in my rather limited social circle. This beautiful cartridge, you see, was constantly replacing boring math and alphabet games, just like nature intended it to:
The game itself, a bold Space Invaders clone, felt totally unique and incredibly high-tech. Little did I know back then that the cheap yet powerful TI 99/4A my father had bought off a colleague was an early 16-bit machine. All I cared for was its one-button joystick, the impressive looking keyboard and its infuriating lack of a pause function, the inclusion of which would make mandatory sleep-breaks a mere temporary stop to my high score beating attempts.
Nowadays, in our era where everything comes with pause buttons and save options and despite the fact that I always keep the old Texas Instruments micro close, I rarely plug the thing in. Connecting it to a modern TV can be quite a problem, you see, but, as I recently re-discovered, a problem worth solving. TI Invaders remains a fantastic game. Possibly the best retro iteration of Space Invaders ever. I mean, really, look at these graphics. How many 1981 game could be this wondrous?
Then again we all know that graphics aren't everything. TI Invaders might retain a certain retro charm with its blocky aliens and blippy-bloppy sounds, but it's the gameplay that counts and that has aged way more gracefully than you'd expect.
The game is slightly faster than your average invaders shooting offering, sports a lovely death animation, has a unique scoring system and way more variety than even the arcade it perfectly apes itself. Every three or so levels a new kind of invading alien appears -all of them sporting unique appearances and abilities- two difficulty levels allow you to start off with a less brutal game, an impressive variety of smart little touches enhances the overall experience and then there's the bonus stage that really spices things up. Obviously, constantly improving ones high-score remains as addictive and enjoyable as ever...
You can find out more about TI Invaders here, here and here. To download the game's manual try this link and in order to actually play the thing I suggest you give the Win994a emulator a try.
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