Defender (Red Label)

1980 (Williams)

Defender was one of the hardest arcades games of all time and I never really mastered it first time round.

I put this down to 2 things:

First, It genuinely was a difficult game and second, It cost 20p.

At a time when all the other games cost 10p to play Defender was twice as much. 10p was worth a lot more in those days and so spending 20p on a game of Defender was a bit of a luxury especially as it was so hard. So, I never really got to put as much practice into it as with the 10p games such as Galaxian and Pac Man etc.

At the start of this challenge my high score stands at 35850. This isn't a great score, it's about 3 or 4 screens worth but I've not got near it since I started this.
I'm not sure what this says other than how difficult this game is.

Starting out

I've started out just playing, my thinking that it's just a war of attrition, the more I play the more I'll score. That doesn't seem to be the case however.

I need to learn some strategy.

I know of 2 methods:
just blast everything and clear the screens.
wait for and rescue the humanoids.

The 2nd method yields some big points, with 1000 points for catching and returning a humanoid to the earth. I've seen scores of 15000 points or more on just the 1st screen doing this.

The 1st method, you can be lucky to get 5000 just from aliens alone.
With the difficulty of this game, it would pay to bank some points early on. At this point in time I'm getting between 3500 and 5000 from screen 1.

Save the humanoids method

Had a go at this and well, it's not so easy, sometimes they hardly ever get captured, sometimes they are being picked up one after the other and it's hard to get them all however the biggest problem is the cost of all these extra points. Lives. I lose so many of them doing it this way, so I'm not getting anywhere. My 1st screen totals are up to 6000 - 8000 but at a cost, I have less lives to progress.

Skill and control

I've come to the conclusion that I just need to master the art of being able to control the ship and fly about without losing lives stupidly. I think being able to dart about reversing direction with control may be key to this.
I'm sure this is where my poor scores are coming from.

Level progression

I'm now thinking that just clearing levels and staying alive may be a viable approach. You get 100 points per live humanoid at the end of the 1st level which increases each level, so 200 each for l2, 300 for l3 etc.

So by level 5 you can get a decent bonus just by making it to the end. Also, pods, bombers and baiters come into the mix and so you scoring some decent point anyway by then.

White Label

I've been at this a while and as I put a quids worth in tonight I realise I'm not any better at this. Tonight it seems that everytime I go to rescue a falling humanoid, more aliens spawn right on top of it resulting in another life lost or if not they shoot just too accurately, they are just shooting me down too many times now.

I've read somewhere that there are a number of different 'labels', White, Green, Blue and Red with Red being the latest and defacto version, also apparently the hardest.

I've also seen somewhere that the labels have slightly different difficulty so I'm going back to the beginning and installing the White Label. 

We'll so if there is a noticable difference and where we go from here.


The white label build certainly has a few differences and once you get into the game it certainly 'feels' different somehow albeit very subtle.

I've decided on my strategy, for now at least, and that is to just blast everything and I feel like I'm getting somewhere. I think maybe it is 'slightly' easier but not much.

Anyway, I'm up to 38175 pts, so an improvement.