Gameplay involved players shooting at a variety of birds of different sizes and attack patterns. Players also had a shield to protect their spaceship with temporarily, although it would be several seconds before the shield could be used again.
The first stage of the game involved shooting several small Phoenix birds that quickly zig-zagged towards the player’s spaceship while dropping bombs. The birds could also "walk" from side to side and fly back up to their formation at a diagonal. The second stage had the same birds, although they were in a different formation and the player was allowed two shots onscreen at a time, rather than one shot at a time with all other stages of the game.
The third and fourth stages began with eight eggs floating about, which then turned into larger birds (blue Phoenixes the first time around, then pink Phoenixes on the next stage). The birds had to be hit right in the middle in order to be destroyed; hitting them anywhere else would cause a wing to be shot off, but it could grow back within a few seconds.
The final stage included a large spacefortress with a moving belt that had to be shot through in order to try to destroy the space creature that resided inside. The fortress slowly moved down towards the bottom of the screen and many Phoenixes from the first two stages also appeared during this wave. If the player was able to kill the creature then the game would cycle back to the first stage.
Getting rammed by any phoenix or being hit by their shots would cause the player to lose a spaceship and the game would end when there were no more spaceships in reserve.
- Move spaceship–left and right buttons
- Force Field–button
Officially licensed versionsEdit
This version was created and released by Atari in 1982.
Although all stages were present, and most of the gameplay remained the same as the original, there were several changes made to the game, as the player had five spaceships instead of three at the beginning of each new game. The port was also for one player only, there was less time for the force field to recharge before it could be reused again, there was no scrolling background or music, plus no small birds during the final stage, along with the spacefortress traveling down the screen at a much faster rate than on the original. Scoring was also slightly changed, as well as some game terminology.
- Move laser cannon–joystick
- Force field–down on joystick
- Eliminate bird cries–left difficulty switch (A position)
Radica! Space InvadersEdit
This version was created and released by Radica! in 2004.
In this plug and play unit, the game was totally reprogrammed, as the sound effects differed from the original, the double shots were omitted from the second stage and the large phoenixes during the third and fourth stages would move very quickly during the first couple seconds of those stages.
- Move spaceship–joystick
- Fire–button A?
- Force field–button B?
Pirated versions, clones, ports, hacks and remakesEdit
Many clones and pirated versions of the arcade original included Batman Part 2 (with no company name to be found during the game’s attract mode), Falcon and Vautour, the latter two seeming to be the same as the original version. Other pirated versions with very minor changes (such as adding a fuel level) included Condor by Siddam, Griffon by Videotron, and several keeping with the original title of Phoenix, although not licensed by IRECSA G.G.I Corporation and T. P. N. Corporation.
Starting in 1988, the UltraCade machine was released, which contained dozens of arcade games, although fraud charges were filed against founder David R. Foley for counterfeit games being sold on the platform. Phoenix was one of the many games originally included with the UltraCade, but would be removed from later incarnations of the unit.
Clones of the game also followed on the home computer front, containing various minor changes, such as Pheenix for the ZX Spectrum, Mega Phoenix for the same computer by Dinamic, and Eagle Empire for the BBC Micro and Commodore 64. Later homebrew clones also followed years later, such as Birds of Prey on the Vecmania cartridge for the Vectrex. A modern day remake was also made by Minion Software for the PC as well, featuring improved graphics and different sounds and music, although most of the gameplay remained pretty much the same.
Several bootleg versions were also released of the Atari 2600 port, which were distributed by Polygram, Tron and Video Game.
- Phoenix was followed by the less successful sequel of Pleiades, also having several different stages. Waves of big birds returned where their wings could be shot off, although there were many differences, such as the final wave consisting of players having to pilot their ship down a runway, plus the force field was replaced with a warp function that would transport their ship to another part of the screen, among other changes.
- Atari sued Imagic due to their Intellivision version of Demon Attack having a spacefortress-like wave, since the Atari port of Phoenix was an exclusive home title. Imagic settled out of court, and the game remained on the shelves.
- Qix, Colony 7, Space Invaders and Lunar Rescue were also included in the Space Invaders unit.