Star Ship was one of the early cartridges Atari
released in support of its Atari 2600
. It came out in 1977. The game box claimed 17 star-ship oriented games were packed onto the cart but in reality only three main games (Star Ship, Warp Drive, and Lunar Lander) were on the cart. Each game had several variations or levels of difficulty, for a total of 17. For example game 12 was the Atari 2600 version of Lunar Lander. Game 13 was Lunar Lander but with the addition of meteorites that could strike your ship. Game 14 was Lunar Lander with meteorites like game 13, but the meteors fly faster. *bounce*
The cart’s eponymous
Star Ship subgame is reminiscent of Tailgunner
or Star Raiders
. You have crosshairs and you have to try and zap several different types of starships (one that bears a distinct resemblance to a Star Trek
federation ship) that endanger your craft. You have 2 minutes 16 seconds of game play to blast the most ships.
The cart’s Warp Drive
game is Night Driver
in space. You had to avoid hitting asteroids and cover as much distance as possible in the 2 minutes 16 seconds. (For some reason, early Atari games all featured games that lasted exactly 2 minutes 16 seconds. It’s a bit like Timex
’s tradition of having all its watches set for 10:10
in its TV commercials.)
The final game Lunar Lander
is a highly lamerized version of the ancient and accepted Lunar Lander game which started back in the mainframe era and then Atari eventually adapted into a cool vector game (which didn’t get as much distribution because it was released at the same time as Asteroids
and Asteroids quickly consumed all of Atari’s production capacity). However unlike the traditional versions, there was no gravity effects and fuel to manage. The fun, I guess, came in watching something that looked a bit like a LEM
bloop around on the screen in time to your joystick movements. You just sort of blooped it over to a cheese-like moon rock and then pressed the fire button to mercifully end the game. Naturally you had to accomplish this in 2 minutes 16 seconds.
Even in 1977 the game was recognized as a bad game and Atari quickly retired the product. However, Sears
continued to publish it under the name “Outer Space”. The Star Ship game was called “Space War
”. Warp Drive was called “Space Race”. Lunar Lander retained its name.