But nope, three decades after LucasArts' first appearance with Rescue on Fractalus! and Ballblazer for the Atari 5200, the last games with their name attached ended up being Angry Birds Star Wars and Kinect fucking Star Wars. If they'd been the developer for those titles I'd say it was practically a mercy killing, but they were actually busy making the awesome looking Star Wars 1313 when the axe fell. So tragic.
TIE Fighter for instance) and just like the movie side of the Lucasfilm business, they came into the fray rayguns blazing first time out.
Rescue on Fractalus! (can't forget the exclamation mark) was released on a whole lot of systems in the mid 80s, though I'm playing the Atari 8-bit version as it seems to be the original, if not quite the first one released. Plus it's apparently the only version that has this cool animation of our mother ship at the start.
This fractal landscape effect was actually programmed by Loren Carpenter, co-founder of Pixar, right after pulling off the same trick for movies by creating the cool ground-breaking fractal CGI planet terraforming Genesis effect simulation in Star Trek 2.
|Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan|
It's easy enough to swoop around the landscape in my fighter though and I have full freedom to fly anywhere I want, as far as I want. But the terrain probably just repeats infinitely and it doesn't much matter where I go if I can't do anything when I get there. All I can really do here is try not to bump into mountains while I'm pressing every key on the keyboard in turn until something happens.
Unfortunately though, the downed allied fighters are just as fragile and I managed to blow up one of my own pilots here instead of the enemy turret. Somehow I doubt I'll be getting a medal after this mission.
My fighter hangs around in the air staring into space for a second like Wile E Coyote, before nose diving back down and exploding. Good job I didn't have anyone else on board really.
Well I tried hitting every key on the keyboard, but it seems I'm going to have to give up and check the instructions for this one, because I'm just lost.
It's called a Valkyrie Fighter by the way, which is possibly related to how the title music sounds a whole lot like Ride of the Valkyries.
I'd already figured out that the LR screen on the right was a radar pointing me towards downed ships, but I didn't realise I had to press 'L' on the keyboard when I was close by to land next to them. Deactivating my fighter's systems and shield by pressing 'S' should then encourage the pilot to leave the safety of his crashed ship and come running over with nothing but his stylish pink space pyjamas to protect him from the deadly corrosive atmosphere. Then I just need to wait for a knock at the door, press 'A' for airlock, and once he's in I can reactivate everything by hitting the throttle and fly off to rescue someone else. Or sit there and listen to the knocks get more desperate if I'm feeling like a dick.
It's all pretty straightforward, but man there's no way I would have ever figured it out without the manual.
You know, it's just occurred to me that they could have so easily made this a Star Wars game and took advantage of the license, but they didn't. It's funny really, when I think of how the poor company ended up.
MEANWHILE, ON THE ZX SPECTRUM.
I rescued someone just to get some closure, then turned the game off forever. I'm finally free! The Speccy version can haunt me no more.
But before I can even climb out of my ship and meet up with the brass for some tea and medals, the lift carries me up another level and I'm blasted back out into space.
SIX LEVELS LATER.
Rescuing these people isn't exactly a challenge right now. As long as I fly around and clear the area of enemies first, land close by, and get them inside the ship before their suit melts, I'm fine, and it's kinda hard to screw that up. They only leave their ship after I've gotten in range and lowered my shields, so all I have to do is listen out for the knock then hit the airlock button. A monkey could do it.
Maybe they should have made it so that 'S' only works to turn the shields off, considering that I can also reactivate my systems by just hitting the throttle key (which is a considerable distance from 'A' and less likely to be accidentally hit). I guess I just need to look at what I'm doing from now on.
Well that was a little different, though it's all sorted now. My kill count went up by one as well, which is a nice touch, though it doesn't change the fact that I got zero pilots rescued from this landing. Plus if there's a secret message hidden in the writing on his suit, I can't decipher it.
EVEN MORE LEVELS LATER.
Also look at that damn score. It ticks up by 1 every second I don't fuck everything up and explode, and yet I still entirely failed to get a screenshot with it at 123456.
Well what the fuck do I do now? Fly the ship totally blind with just my radar, altimeter, artificial horizon, wing clearance bars, compass and targeting scope to guide me? Actually when I put it like that it doesn't sound so implausible. Hold tight friend, I can't see a damn thing and I'm coming to save you!
It's funny how everything on this cockpit works and has a useful function. Even those random blinking lights on the bottom middle are actually an enemy turret lock on indicator. I think it's a shame that proper cockpits in space sims eventually started to be phased out in favour of a HUD. I miss them.
Plus I miss space sims.
By the way, the radar only shows pilots, not ships, so once I've rescued someone (or killed them) I'll never accidentally stumble across their ship again. Good game design that. I mean I've been trying to blow up the crashed fighter after every rescue (to stop them falling into the sinister hands of the Jaggis), but the damn things are hidden behind ridges so often that sometimes that all I can do is land near the radar dot and hope the pilot is able to see me.
I actually thought I was in with a chance of finishing this as well for a minute there as well. So much for my fragile dreams. I suppose I'll turn it off here then.
I wasn't expecting much out of Rescue on Fractalus! and to be honest I didn't get much out of it, as it's a pretty shallow game. It controls surprisingly well though, it's reasonably fast, and by some miracle it actually did feel like I was flying over virtual mountains in it. There's just enough detail on screen to see it as a 3D world when you're moving and it's a pretty impressive effect considering it's coming out of a computer from 1979. But it's a game entirely based around following a dot on the radar, shooting some green dots along the way, landing next to the dot and pressing 'S' then 'A' (or sometimes 'S' again). Then you fly off and do it again and it apparently never ends. Good news for people who hate closure.
So yeah I'd say that overall this was a pretty decent start for Lucasfilm Games and I'll probably never want to play it again.
If you have anything you'd like to say about Rescue on Fractalus!, all that stuff I wrote about it, the passing of LucasArts, the site in general, or that cool ground-breaking fractal CGI planet terraforming Genesis effect simulation from Wrath of Khan, then you're in luck because you can totally talk about any of that stuff in the comment box conveniently situated below.