Picofender is my personal love poem to the 1980s arcade shooter and to Defender in-particular. It is also the first game I've ever built beyond just simple demos <200 lines of code. Developed solo using Pico-8, this captures a number of features from Defender, but kicks it up a notch with faster speed, better frame rates, multi-layer parallax scrolling, a shield, achievements, and more. 


1. Push [LEFT] and [RIGHT] for your shift to thrust left and right. You can travel as far as you like in either direction, the world wraps around.

2. Push [UP] and [DOWN] to move your ship up or down inside the playfield.

3. Push the  'Z' button to shoot lasers.

4. Push the  'X' button to deploy your shields.

5.  Push 'Z' and 'X' to use a bomb. You have three bombs to start, but you can earn more bombs with bonus points. You can earn more bombs at 20k, 40k,  and 80k points and for each 80k points thereafter.

6.  Shields make your ship invulnerable while deployed, but your use of the shield is limited. Use the shield too much and your ship will explode! 

7. Watch the blue bar at near the top of the playfield, which shows how much shield power you have remaining. The shield indicator will turn red and warn you before you explode. 

8. In 'Arcade Mode' you have three lives to start. You can earn more lives at  20k, 40k,  and 80k points and for each 80k points thereafter. Score as many points as you can. 

9. In 'Deadline Mode' you have unlimited lives but only three minutes to score as many points as you can. 

10. Watch the blue shards that eject from downed enemies. Collecting blue shards increases your score multiple, increasing the number of points you get for each kill. 

11. Be careful, if you die, your score multiple resets back to 1. 

12. Save the humans! The evil picoaliens are trying to capture the humans walking around at the bottom of the screen. If you shoot an alien while it has a human in its clutches it will fall. 

13. If a human falls just a bit, they will survive. However, if a human falls from a great height, they can only survive if you catch them on the way down. The player gets bonus points for every human saved.

14. Don't kill the humans! Don't let all the humans get captured.


Can you get all the achievements?


Please let me know what you think in the comments. Follow me on Twitter, check out my website.


Programming, Art, Sound, and Music by Jon Loiterman, Sunbear Interactive.

Special Thanks To: Rob Bastholm, @ravikanodia, @2DArray, and @fsouchu.

Inspiration from: The Vid Kidz — Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar.

This game is not affiliated with Defender and is not  licensed by or affiliated with Williams Entertainment, Midway Entertainment, or Warner Bros. 

PlatformsmacOS, Linux, HTML5
Rated 4.8 out of 5 stars
(8 total ratings)
GenreAction, Shooter
Made withPICO-8
TagsArcade, Demake, fantasy-console, High Score, PICO-8, Pixel Art, Retro, Score Attack, Side Scroller
Average sessionA few minutes
InputsKeyboard, Gamepad (any)


Download NowName your own price

Click download now to get access to the following files:

picofender_menu.1.2.p8.png 12 kB
picofender_game.1.2.p8.png 33 kB
picofender_1.2_windows.zip 967 kB
picofender_1.2_linux.zip 724 kB
picofender_1.2_osx.zip 3 MB
picofender_1.2_raspi.zip 2 MB

Development log


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Very well done - not the first defender on Pico but you delivered a solid contenter!

Note: the game aspect ratio is incorrect - make sure you post the game with the recommended screen size settings from manual:

4.Embed in page, with a size of 750px x 680px.
5.Set "Mobile Friendly" on (default orientation) and "Automatically start on page load" on.

Thanks for the tip! I'll have to check that out. 


Would it be possible to add a dash ("-") to the high score entry? My initials are two letters only, so am not able to correctly enter them.


Thanks for playing! It definitely is possible to add a dash or a space for folks that don't want to use all the letters. I will add that to my bug list and I'll fix it in the next version.  


Thanks again for playing! Exquisite Bytes. I've updated Picofender to allow you to enter a couple of other characters for the high score, including underscore "_" which should give you something like two characters. Hopefully this is a satisfactory fix for you.

Excellent. Thanks for the fix.

Really impressive, you really put defender on steroïds !!!! By the way, just bought it but noticed there's no file so that i can play it directly in my Pico8. Also would like to play it on my Pocket Chip device which only accepts carts. Any chance to have the cart file to play it on my Pocket Chip ? Thanks !

You just uploaded them !!!! MANY THANKS !!!!

I uploaded them twice after realizing that I needed a small change to make the carts work correctly when you download. So if you have an issue where the menu doesn't load the game property, try re-downloading those files again, since I changed something to fix that problem before I uploaded them a second time.

Definitely would love to see pics of you playing this on your Pocket CHIP! 

I will provide them I promise :)

Defender on steroids was definitely the goal. So happy you're enjoying this! I think you should have the cart files now. Please let me know here or @ me on Twitter @protonperson


Great game! Really impressed with how close it is to the looks of the original

Thanks again for checking this out and for sharing on Twitter. Lots of subtle changes due to Pico-8's lower resolution and square aspect ratio.

I tried to highlight a few small visual things that were personal touches here: the two layers of parallax scrolling on the stars that also clip with the foreground, the scanning beams, and the dithering/transparency on the shield.  

There's so many little things that went into this. I'm just grateful that people think it's cool and are playing! :)