Fun with Space Invaders and Parallax scrolling

Back when I was a young wippersnapper (many moons ago) one of my good friends had a Sega Mega Drive. As with any new console it was on every kids Christmas list but compared to the current generation of games consoles it looks very primitive. The games were immense fun and you didn’t need an instruction manual to play them. Two of my favourite games were Golden Axe and Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic the Hedgehog used a technique called Parallax scrolling; this is where background images move slower than “closer” foreground images giving the illusion of depth in a 2D plane.

I’m quite late to the web parallax party as the effect was recreated and popularised back in 2008. I first remember seeing it being used by the holding page for Clearleft’s Silverback application, but it may have appeared elsewhere before that. Three years on the web is a long time and technology has moved on, so I set myself a little project to recreate the effect using the HTML5 canvas element.

Parallax scrolling using a Space Invaders alien
Move your mouse to see the Parallax scrolling effect.

To demonstrate the effect I used a few graphics from another iconic retro game: Space Invaders. As you move the mouse the scary alien separates into its constituent pixels. The foreground pixels move faster than the background pixels creating a slight parallax effect. You have three aliens to choose from: Dave, Julian and Brian, which I’ve named for no particular reason. I think the names quite suit them. I’ve also added a little randomness to the demo in how they are generated, which you can see by reloading the page.

Hooray for retro games and pointless demo’s! :)