The Game: You’re intergalactic hero Space Ace one moment, but the next moment, the evil Borf kidnaps your girlfriend Kimberly and unleashes the Infanto-Ray on you…and suddenly, you’re intergalactic geek Dexter. Borf has placed an enormous number of deadly obstacles between you and him, obstacles which Space Ace could vanquish in no time flat – but you can only turn into the bemuscled one for brief periods of time… (Starcom, 1984)
Memories: Another laserdisc game from the Don Bluth/Rick Dyer team that brought you Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace makes some minor improvements on its predecessor, while still falling victim to many of the same basic problems.
One essential downfall of both Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair is the “lab rat in a maze” syndrome – you either move the joystick, or hit the action button, in the right direction at the right time, or you’ve just wasted part of the 50 cents required to play the game.
If anything, from a purely visual perspective, I find Space Ace a little less pleasing to the eye. Dragon’s Lair was no Fantasia, but it was at least on a par with really good Saturday morning cartoons. For some reason I can’t quite put a finger on, Space Ace doesn’t even look that good, almost as if its gestation was quicker and cheaper.
On the upside, there are elements of Space Ace that seem to be more clearly geared toward video game play as opposed to a minimum-player-participation cartoon, such as the first-person chase scenes and the rotating, spherical maze which makes for one of the game’s more impressive sequences. But even these sequences are still “lab rat” fodder – you have no real control. In hindsight, perhaps the makers of Space Ace should have gone for a format very common to today’s games – fancy animated cutscenes interspersed among more tradition computer-generated game segments.
Space Ace generated some buzz when it first hit the arcades, but most of the attention it got was riding Dragon’s Lair‘s coattails.
That trend has continued to recent years, which saw Space Ace follow Dragon’s Lair onto DVD. Like the previous DVD version of Dragon’s Lair, Digital Leisure’s remastered playable DVD of Space Ace is nice to look at, featuring circa 1984 TV news clips as bonus features, and including the game’s original attract mode as a kind of trailer. And like Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace has a very, very handy “watch” option which takes you through the complete animation of a perfectly played round without requiring you to make the correct sequence of moves. The DVD is good, but as with its predecessor, you really have to be a Space Ace fan or a completist to justify the expense.