Defender, Chapter 6: Bombers

Defender, Chapter 6: Bombers

Bombers are stealthy and deceptive.  They drift across the screen, never making a sound or firing a shot, leaving a trail of harmless looking white X’s.  Those X’s, of course, constitute a small mine field, and just letting your ship touch one of them will blow it into a million pieces (well, over a hundred).  Since there’s nothing you can do about the mines other than avoid them, let’s look at how to shoot bombers as quickly as possible so that they never get a chance to leave those mines.

Bombers are big and slow, but they have a knack for speeding up momentarily whenever you try to shoot them.  The bomber doesn’t really know whether you’re firing at it; bombers just accelerate whenever they cross your altitude, to get out of your line of fire.  They do it when they’re in front or behind, whether you’re firing or not.  And as soon as a bomber has moved above or below your ship, it slows down again.

It’s usually possible to just shoot the bombers when you see them during an attack wave, and by the time you finish the wave they’ll all be gone.  This is very important, because leftover bombers can be a problem at the end of an attack wave when baiters begin appearing, especially if the bombers are far away or traveling in both directions.  In fact, bombers are the only opponent that is worth turning around for during an attack wave, as long as you don’t backtrack too far.

Starting with the fourth wave, the presence of dive bombers in each wave makes it likely that there will be one or more bombers left at the end of the wave.  It’s important to shoot these leftover bombers as quickly as possible; otherwise, baiters start appearing.  To shoot bombers as quickly as possible, the first step is to get to them as quickly as possible.  Since bombers are non-aggressive, it takes too long to wait for them to come to you.

Getting to the bombers quickly

In order to get to a bomber quickly, always fly in the direction opposite to the direction the bomber is moving.  This will bring you together as quickly as possible.  The only exception to this rule occurs when the bomber has passed you, and is on the screen or just off the edge of it.  In this situation it is obviously quicker to go directly to the bomber.  A good rule of thumb is to never turn around to go after a bomber if you’re already moving away from it and the bomber has left the main screen.

Predicting bomber motion

If you get blown up before shooting all of the bombers in a wave, it’s possible to predict which way the remaining ones will be going when they reappear.  Knowing which way the bombers will be going lets you get a head start by flying towards them before they even appear.  This can be a big help when the bombers are the only thing left in the wave, by getting you to the bomber before baiters start appearing.

The rule for bomber direction is deceptively simple: each squad of bombers moves in the opposite direction from the squad before. (A squad consists of all of the bombers moving in one direction.)  The reason this rule is deceptive is that there are more bomber squads, and hence more changes of direction to keep track of, than you might at first think.  A new bomber squad is generated each time bombers appear, whether it’s at the beginning of an attack wave or the start of a turn.  In a two player game, this means that you have to count your opponent’s squads as well as your own.

In addition to the direction rule, there is another rule that affects changes in bomber direction: whenever there are three or fewer bombers at the end of a turn, they will reappear at as a single squad.  This is true even if the bombers are not all moving in the same direction.

Obviously, accurate prediction of bomber motion requires a lot of concentration, even when it isn’t your turn to play.  In fact, it usually requires more concentration than it’s worth, with the possible exception of competitive tournament play.  A good rule of thumb that will save you the trouble of counting bomber squads is: when you get blown up with all of the bombers going the same direction, they will all be moving in the opposite direction when they reappear.  This rule won’t always work, but it turns out to be true most of the time.

Shooting from the front

Once you have reached the bomber (or bombers) you are flying towards, always try to shoot them from the front.  This is done to avoid the mines they leave behind them.  If you miss the bomber and coast past it, turn around and get back in front to shoot it.  The extra time it takes to overtake the bomber again is usually worth the guarantee of avoiding its mines.

Bombers are hard to hit (with your shots), because of their acceleration when crossing your line of fire.  The best way to shoot bombers is not to aim, but to strafe across a small area near the bomber and then move above or below it.  The bomber may move right into your shots when he accelerates out of your line of fire.

Shooting from behind

The only time when you should intentionally try to get behind a bomber to shoot it is when you know that other objects on the screen will prevent you from shooting it from the front on the first pass.  In that case, go past the bomber and reverse, so that you’re coasting backwards.  The bomber will move vertically towards your ship at the steepest possible angle, bringing it right through your line of fire.  You can then shoot it safely, because the bomber’s steep climb angle assures that there will be no mines directly behind it.

shooting bombers from behind

Pulling bombers to the center of the screen

When you are flying a long distance to get to the last bombers in a wave, your ship can build up quite a bit of speed and momentum.  When this happens, reverse and power brake so that you won’t fly right on by the bombers if you miss on your first shot.  Also, if you are coasting backwards in front of the bombers you can “pull” them towards the center of the screen.  This will give you more opportunities to shoot them before they wrap around the top or bottom edge of the screen.  When a bomber wraps around, you must either travel across the screen to where it comes out or wait at the edge to lure it back onto the screen.  If a bomber is watching you, he may not tolerate this.

Bombing bombers

The presence of bombers can slow the machine down very much.  Because of this, it is sometime worthwhile just to bomb the bombers, just to speed up your strafe for the rest of the attack wave.  The best place to do this is over the low plain to the right of the planet’s big mountain.  Because of where bombers first appear and the fact that they break into groups moving in opposite directions, the two bomber squads will always meet over that plain.  When this happens, your fire button will slow down so much that it’s almost useless, and use of a bomb will be justified.