Monday, April 29, 2013

"Rescue on Fractalus", 1985.

Our farewell to Lucasarts (or just "Game Division" as it began) continues here in slow motion with this, their second title.
Rescue on Fractalus!
Activision's 1st release from Lucasfilm

Hear what Jeff Minter says:
"One of my all-time favorites... Stunning, solid 3-D visuals. The most amazing impression of flight through mountainous terrain. Look out for this one. I think it's ace." ZZAP 64
For starters, I must disclaim -- this isn't one of my scans, but is lifted from the excellent game-ad blog series FROM THE PAGES OF THE PAST! ADS OF YESTERYEAR over at World 1-1. '85 is a bit early for most of my comic or magazine collecting.

Early Lucasarts publishing is somewhat haphazard; they aimed to begin publishing through Atari with Ballblazer, but that deal sunk after the assorted weirdos there managed to leak the complete game to all the pirate BBSes well before it hit store shelves. So on to Atari's homegrown competition, Activision, who began publishing Lucasarts games in Europe at least (I believe Epyx had the honours in North America. We'll see this more clearly when we get to The Eidolon.)

This must be prototypal of the "rave reviews" ad where the publisher doesn't provide copy describing the ad, but poaches gushing from a reviewer. Well, you could do much worse than these glowing words from the man known as The YaK of Llamasoft, UK game absurdist who's become known for extreme excellence in trippy game visuals. Here he is praising this game's visuals to a UK audience! A perfect endorsement from a perfect spokesperson. And that's about all the ad copy gives me to work with.

It's hard to know ultimately how influential this game was -- no sequels, and fractal landscape-generation (hence the name) techniques so far ahead of their time the machines couldn't actually do much with them. (Well, they enjoyed influence inasmuch as the techniques were re-used in The Eidolon next, but you can't be your own influence, can you?) But it gets a prize for early use of the climactic shocker: upon landing to rescue a downed pilot (scene depicted in the in-ad box art) there was a chance you'd actually be rescuing an evil alien disguised as a pilot, who would then turn around and begin smashing in your cockpit window. I can't think of many other games where the "getting warmer" of approaching a goal ticks over to "zero degrees cold" quite so quickly.

Probably it would have enjoyed some success as a port to an 8-bit home console, a market in which Lucasarts dipped its toes to distinctly mixed success.

There aren't a ton of these, so we'll see if I can't clear the rest off my slate in fairly short order and get back to unthemed posts.