Can You Be a Grand Master?
by: Docktor

The third in a series... Every week, I'll be writing an article explaining some of the details of how to become a Grand Master at one of the games here in Neopia. Please note that these are not "how to play" articles that list the keystrokes and all that. Rather, they are specifically designed to discuss how to best become a Grand Master at the game.

This week: Swarm

This article will visit the rather addictive game of Swarm. It's similar to an old arcade game called Space Invaders, but there are a few Neopian twists. To become a Grand Master at Swarm, you need to make 1000 points in a single game. You'll make Master rank at 600, having gone through Expert at 400, Novice at 200 and Amateur at 100 (Beginner below that).

If you're at all adept at this sort of game, you may never see the lower rankings. I can usually get over 1000 points if I make it to level 7 or so. The scoring on this one is that you get 5 points for shooting one of the enemies, or 50 for shooting one of the flying ships above the "crowd." Bonus orbs don't give points, though they can be helpful.

There are 4 rows of 7 invaders, so that's 140 per wave if you don't get any bonuses for ships. At that rate, you're only 20 points short of Grand Master if you clear 7 waves. The rows of invaders drop slightly each time they move to the left or right edge and reverse direction. This means that the longer it takes for them to make a trip, the more time you have to shoot.

My strategy is to take off from the right hand side, and make the column thinner and thinner. You only have 4 in a column, and they won't drop down so fast. The invaders drop their bombs trailing their direction of motion, so if you're moving with them, just stay a bit ahead. You'll also notice that more of their bombs are dropped in the left half of the area, and that right most tower survives the longest. That's why I shoot from that side more, and that's also why the flying ships bomb that one the most, but those are the breaks... I put my Wocky Cannon just to the left of the rightmost tower to begin with, sitting right over the purple orb.

(Hint: Between waves, go ahead and position your cannon, then start the wave.) From this position, just holding the spacebar down after starting the level, I can get 7 of the 8 in the rightmost 2 columns, only darting under the tower if there's a bomb headed right for me. A bit of a pause while the last invader bounces off the right wall, and I've hit all 8 and have a considerably narrower crowd to deal with. Then I move to the left side of that opening I was in (to the right of the third tower) and can generally pick off the next 3 columns from there, again only moving when needed for incoming fire. Once those are gone, the last two columns are fairly low down, so I pick off the two bottom enemies and then just play with the others while hoping for flying ships to go overhead for more points. That's another advantage of a thinner column of enemies--you have more open space to go after the ships.

Unfortunately ships can be a bit erratic, stopping part way across and then speeding away, but at least you have a better opportunity with lots of space. At the end and on the higher waves, the towers start disappearing pretty quickly. You can try for a brown orb to rebuild them, but I just blow away the rest of what's there. I find that once I'm concentrating on not getting hit, I do better without them.

Towers are handy at the beginning, but later they ruin your rhythm. As for the orbs, avoid the green and yellow like the plague. Grab a couple of dark blue orbs when you can so your tank is fast, and a light blue one to shrink it down. Always grab the light blue last because any of the others reset you to normal size. If you can get a couple of orange orbs (lucky if you can) then your shots are more powerful too, and I've been known to wipe out a whole column with one shot once they get really powerful. Remember that orbs float all the way past a tower, so you can be safe and still grab one. Think about that when you shoot the invader carrying it and try to get it to drop just as he's passing a tower.

The ships can drop some pretty devastating glowing green bombs, but they drop orbs when shot. You can't tell by looking at the ship ahead of time which one it'll be, but for 50 points and an orb, it's worth trying. I think the only orb worth risking a lot for is the orange. You break even if you get hit but still grab a purple one since it's a shield, but I don't usually bother. In summary, in this game you need to follow the philosophy I first put forth in my Nimmo's Pond article: don't get hit. Just carve away at the columns so the round will last longer, and try to get the ships whenever you can for extra points. Other than the columns getting closer, you really don't have a time limit on this game, so stay calm and methodical.
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