The Game: You are go for landing on the moon – only the moon isn’t there to make it easy for you. Craggy mountains and craters make it difficult for you to find one of the few safe landing spots on the surface, and even when you’re aligned above level ground, your fuel is running out fast. Do you have the right stuff that it’ll take before you can take one giant leap? (Bill Budge, 1981 / re-released by Eduware in 1984)
Memories: This game was one of the earliest efforts by a budding Apple II programmer named Bill Budge, before he achieved fame as the author of Pinball Construction Set. At the time, Budge was experimenting with interchangeable modules that could be slotted into the code of any number of games, including one for smoothly rotating 3-D wireframe objects – well, smoothly where the Apple II was concerned. The result was this unforgiving homage to Atari’s cult coin-op Lunar Lander.
To put it mildly, Neil and Buzz make it look easy – or maybe Bill Budge makes it look hard. Even seasoned Lunar Lander veterans may find it nearly impossible to land in one piece at first (but until then, you can enjoy Budge’s elegant “explosion” drawing routine, over and over again, as the pieces of your lunar excursion module spray out into the lunar sky like limp fireworks). The controls are simple enough, but the game itself is a bit frustrating at times.
Originally released by Budge himself, Tranquility Base was later re-released by a company that took over the catalog of small-time “edutainment” software distributor Edu-Ware (also the home of such cult classics as The Prisoner and Prisoner 2. There’s little doubt that, considering how much gaming had advanced even on the Apple II in three years, the only point in re-releasing Tranquility Base at that point was to cash in on Budge’s newfound notoriety as one of the original stable of Electronic Arts “software artists.”