Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

U.S. Games' Space Jockey -Atari 2600
Retro Gaming Review

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewU.S. Games' Space Jockey for Atari 2600 Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Space Jockey
Manufacturer: U.S. Games / Vidtec
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1982
Part #: VC1001
Rating: 3 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

Rating: U.S. Games' Space Jockey Classic Retro Video Game Review Rating
U.S. Games' Space Jockey Screenshot:
U.S. Games' Space Jockey for Atari 2600 screenshot Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

I like their oatmeal... U.S. Games was a small short-lived game company that created 14 mediocre games as a division of Quaker Oats. There were a lot of companies that saw the success of Atari in the 1980s & the growth of the fledgling video game market. They jumped in hoping to ride the financial wave to success.

Space Jockey is a simple side-scrolling shooter that is good fun in small quantities, but it doesn't spur you to want to play for any great length of time or frequency. It's fun, but not very engaging.

My biggest issue has little to do with game play or the traditional markers of game reviews. Allegedly, this game is set in space and, as expected, you command a Spaceship. So, why am I shooting at planes and hot air balloons? And am I shooting at tanks and trees from outer space? Worst of all the ground has no real purpose. I don't lose a life if I hit it. Space Jockey seems anti-space!

As much as these visual items irritate me, it must be said that Space Jockey has several game variations that make it a much better game than the default Game #1. All too often we don't take variations into consideration, when they actually make the basic game much better.

Space Jockey's Story Arc

As a Space Jockey, you pilot a highly maneuverable Attack Saucer that resides on the left side of the screen. A variety of enemy weapons and obstacles descend on your space ship. These include tanks, jet planes, prop planes and helicopters, which all fire at you. Additionally, there are balloons, houses and trees that do not fire but are obstacles capable of destroying your Attack Saucer on impact.

Your objective is to shoot down as many enemies as possible, and score as many points as possible, while avoiding enemy fire.

Holy shit! Check this out...
U.S. Games was a company set up by Quaker Oats to try and harvest some of the wild financial gains seen in the video game sector of the early 80's. Quite a few companies outside of gaming tried to cash in. The problem was that they emulated
what was already on the market without understainding what players wanted. Poorly re-hashed games wasn't the key to success. Many of these companies folded as quickly as they emerged. U.S. Games lasted one year.

Space Jockey's Game Play

You begin with 3 lives and earn an additional ship every 1,000 points. This is a shoot-everything sort of game where you also must dodge enemy fire. The controls are quite good in terms of your ship's maneuverability.

Both flying and ground-based enemies will shoot at you. Fire back and dodge these enemies to stay alive. Tanks, jet planes, propeller planes and helicopters will fire at you. Balloons, houses and trees do not fire at you.

Space Jockey's Difficulty Switches

The manual refers to the Difficulty Switches being in the Up or Down position. I've always seen them as A or B positions. Either way the left switch controls the speed of enemy shots while the right switch determines the frequency of enemy shots. These options spice up the action, but don't really diminish the monotony that settles in sooner than is should with this type of game.

Space Jockey's Game Variations

Like many 2600 games that have multiple game variations, it behooves us to investigate these other game scenarios to see what else they may offer. Space Jockey has 16 game variants accessible via the Game Select switch. If you ignore these variants, by default you will be left playing the most vanilla version of the game. I wonder if most reviewers played Game 1 and found it monotonous - I did.

Many games have a "children's" variant where the game play is easy enough for a young child to enjoy the game. There's no such version on Space Jockey, but the other variations offer such options as random enemy movements, directional control of missiles, horizontal ship movement, and collision destruction. When implementing these options, we see a much better game emerge. It isn't a radical change, but if you dislike Game #1... try Game #16

There are a few homebrew hacks of this game. The game's control is good, so these updates are predominantly visual. The nice aspect to this is they have changed the sprites to look more like Spaceships... as opposed to hot air balloons. One version even gives is a nice vector-graphics appearance.

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Final Judgement:

U.S. Games' Space Jockey

doesn't take advantage of the myriad of options that similar games used. There is no interaction with the ground and enemies don't offer much diversity to the game play. We gave it a higher than usual rating because the additional game variations do offer options like ramdom enemy movement and horizontal ship movement which add some more challenge.

Read about our Spaceship video game review rating system

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