Review: Insectoid

ActionSoft has brought back the classic arcade shooter. (February 28th, 2010)

You’re an inexperienced pilot who is in the battle for his or her life against the Qu’roth. Choose from one of three levels and four ships and battle a variety of bug-like characters in 50 different levels.

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: ActionSoft

Price: $19.95 US

The Good

  • Great graphics. Good shoot-em up action. Easy to play and understand for all ages. PPC, Intel, and Windows compatible.

The Bad

  • Hard action on your keyboard. Cannot use mouse to shoot.

I fondly remember the days when no matter where you went arcades graced spare corners of restaurants, stores, and airports. I was an expert shooter in those games where you moved a ship across the bottom of a screen and shot at variety of falling objects. The memories of my fiancé's grief stricken face, as I hit the highest score in Galaga at a drag racing arcade and won a coveted t-shirt was priceless. His comment, "girls aren't supposed to be able to do that," was not. Well, it's many years later and while my fiancé is history, it seems those shooter games are not. If you long for those simple shoot-em up games like Galaxian, Galaga, Phoenix, Centipede, or Space Invaders, you have to go to an old-style arcade, find an emulator for the Mac, or read on.

ActionSoft has brought the classic arcade shooter to the new millennium Macs (or Windows boxes, if you're so inclined) with the release of Insectoid. As the site says, "Insectoid is a retro shooter fan's dream come true." It definitely is worthy of inclusion in the games included in the Wikipedia page, Golden Age of Video Arcade Games.

 insectoid102-opening

Opening Screen


A simple drag and drop install, puts a 53 MB file in Mac OS X 10.x and up. It is PPC or Intel compatible too. While some objects, such as an over-large cursor may offend interface purists, it quickly becomes inconsequential, because the fast game play keeps you busy. Insectoid is a perfect mindless diversion and you can complete a game or portion of a game in minutes or get sucked in for hours.

insectoid102-startscreen

Welcome Screen


When you start, you can choose from one of three levels and four ships. The levels include Easy for your aging hands or your young kids, Normal for those of us that don't get to play games as often and we like, and Hard. Needless to say, the Hard level is geared for the rough and tumble seasoned gamers. The ships vary in shape, movement and shooting speed, plus special abilities.

insectoid102-chooseship

Select Your Ship


The premise of the game, explained in the Help screens, is that you're an inexperienced pilot who finds himself or herself in the battle for his/her life against the Qu'roth. This story scenario seems contrived though. The Help pages also explain a bit about the special power cores, weapons, and bonus points that yield you more ships. You can change the keys used, music, and sound in the Options screen.

Exciting game play, plenty of opposition in a variety of colorful forms, bugs, and critters make Insectoid a winner for anyone who loves the simplicity of a single-shooter game. The best part is there are no blood, no human targets, and no tedious levels that go on too long.

insectoid102-screenonsite

Sample Level


Each screen offers a fascinating look into a different 2D space. That's a lot of great graphics when you consider there are a total of 50 levels in the game. Each system contains ten levels, and if you make it to the sixth level of any one system, you don't need to restart at level 1 if you are annihilated.

insectoid102-screen

Sample Level


The right side of the screen keeps a count of your Power Cores, number of ships, and your current level. This is not a game you can save in mid-stream, but you do get a status report after each level.

insectoid102-status

Status Screen


insectoid102-gameover

Game Over


My only concern is keyboard wear and tear. You're hitting the keys under rapid fire, which means, you're not being too delicate. While the older keyboards could withstand significant banging, I don't know about these stylish thinner keyboards.

I see on the site that Insectoid has GamePad support for Windows, and wonder if Mac support may be on the way. There is software called GamePad Companion that adds game controller support on the Mac, but it hasn't been updated since 2006. Belkin sells the $70 n52te SpeedPad Game Controller, but the site lists it out of stock. Logitech also sells game controllers, but none specify that they're Mac compatible, although they are USB-enabled. I know I plan to look into game controllers, because I don't want to risk my expensive keyboard.

The only things missing are the cheering fans, the beers, and that familiar arcade din of numerous other energetic fans pressing the keys on other game boxes in close quarters. I tested version 1.02 on a PowerBook and Intel iMac, with no problems. You cannot go wrong for the price-but try it in demo mode if you need convincing.

by ilene hoffman, reviews editor


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