Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lost on Fractalus

Back in high school, Rescue on Fractalus was one of my favourite games for my Atari 130 XE home computer. At the time, the graphics, gameplay and story (such as it was) were incredibly compelling. Charged with flying rescue missions on a hostile planet, your task was to avoid or destroy anti-spacecraft emplacements and UFOs and then land to pick up stranded human pilots.
The mighty Atari 130XE. Photo retouched by Multicherry.
As a sadistic twist, the programmers (at the suggestion of George Lucas himself) had the game randomly replace the stranded space pilots with an alien in disguise. If you let him in the airlock, you were dead meat. Even if you didn't let him him, he'd suddenly pop up and start banging on the windshield; you'd have to kill the beast by turning your shields on, frying it. The first few times the alien popped up, I jumped - it was an effective ploy.

Today's computer games are far more sophisticated than Rescue on Fractalus, but I still remember it quite fondly. Flying through the planet's fractal canyons while avoiding death rays and UFOs was quite a challenge, and you really felt like a hero when you picked up a desperate pilot. Given the relative complexity of modern games like Fallout 3, I suspect I'd probably be bored in minutes if I tried Rescue on Fractalus again, but I remain grateful for the diversions it provided my adolescent mind.

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