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|Title:||Rescue On Fractalus|
|Rating:||4 out of 5|
It's a shame George Lucas is such a whacko. If you let Jar Jar Binks slide, Lucas is a creative genius. Even today, Rescue On Fractalus is still an impressive looking game - to think it was released in 1984 is staggering.
Using a technique called Fractals, LucasFilm created a navigable mountainous landscape that created a "world" in much the way we think of it today. The scenery remained true to your position allowing you to see the same terrain regardless of the direction from which you encounter it.
Similar to Activision's Starmaster on the 2600, Rescue on Fractalus is a first-person perspective game with a Defender-ish theme. Your job is to rescue fallen pilots from the surface of a hostile planet. Defender let you run over Humanoids and randomly plop them on the ground as a means of saving them. ROF takes the rescue mission to a much more detailed level. When yo locate a piot to rescue, you must navigate to his location. When he bangs on the ship you open an airlock to get him aboard. Good stuff!
Our Ethercorps Pilots are holding their own in the space battle, but the evil Jaggies have taken over Planet Fractalus. The planet is mountainous with deep crevasses covering much of it's sering hot surface. The atmosphere is a thick cyanitric acid that will eat through most anything it contacts. To make matters worse, the Jaggies have defense installations on the surface and will gladly shoot down any ships entering the area. The Air Pilots need to rescue pilots trapped on Fractalus with no means to escape.
Just a few years ago, Air Pilots were being phased out of the Ethercorps. Now our value has been realized and we're being called in to rescue stranded pilots. Equipped with Dirac Mirror Shields and AMB (anti-mater bubble) Torpedoes, our Valkerie Fighter ships are in route to the inhospitable surface of Fractalus. Our Etheric Navigation system is the only hope for spotting downed ships and their pilots in the murky acrid dust.
You're launched from the mothership on a quest to battle the Jaggies and rescue downed pilots. Each wave is completed when you've rescue all the pilots or run out of energy at which point you re-connect with the mothership. Jaggie gun turrets appear as green domes on your screen and the cross hairs appear to targeting. Either fire button will get the job done.
Pilots will appear on the radar screen, so you need to fly low. As mentioned, this isn't Defender where you can simply rum over objects to constitute "picking them up". There's a series of events you have to follow to safely get the pilots aboard your Valkerie.
When the pilot appears as a green splotch at the bottom of your screen press you need to land by pressing the Land button (1-button on the keypad). Next you press the Systems button (2-button on the keypad) to shut down your engines. If you're on track the screen will display "Pilot In Range". Otherwise you'll see "Pilot Too Far" and you have to take off by pressing the Thrust button (6-button on the keypad) to get closer to him. He was shot down, after all - he's not going to scamper over to YOU just because you can fly or use your instrument panel correctly!
When you hear the pilot banging on the side of your ship - you can fuck with him by calling out, "Who is it?" but that's up to you - press the Airlock button (3-button on the keypad). This will let the pilot in and the door will automatically close. Hit Thrust again to head off to the next rescue. when yo pick up all the pilots or run too low on energy the mothership will come fetch you. "Mothership" will appear on the screen and you press the Booster button (7-button on the keypad) to dock.
...or lack thereof.
My copy is a cart-only purchase I made online so I was robbed of the glory of owning the box, manual and overlay. Oddly, I've heard complaints of others claiming they have no overlat either. One guy made one and posted it online. Google it, Baby! This leads me to believe Rescue On Fractalus did not ship with an overlay. The instruction manual lists the key numbers for the various functions. This is a game that really benefits from an overlay. WTF?
Similar to Starmaster, the control pannel in your Valkerie ship will help you both fly and locate pilots. Like most video games you have your score, but you're also equipped with a compass to assess your relative direction as you circle for Pilot pick-ups. Since you're guiding a winged ship through narrow crevasses the Wing Clearance Bars help gage how close you are to the mountain walls while flying and particularly while turning around. The Altitude level help you land on the surface.
The ROF cockpit's instrument panel gives you a lot of info. The detail is quite elaborate for a game in 1984! Often times it seems like too much, but once yo get the hang of which meters are important during which operations, it really makes the game very engaging. If it all seems like too much, there's even a demo mode that will let you sit back (with beer) and get a feel for the game.
Upper level have more Jaggie gun turrets and some even have suicide saucers that will dive right at you. From Level 16 you will encounter night flying where you have to rely on your gages and sounds. This is an intricate game that rightly has a high place in retro gaming.
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