The Game: You’re the pilot of the space shuttle. And the mission specialist too, apparently. (Hey, everyone’s making staffing cutbacks these days.) You must keep the orbiter on target during launch, not allowing it to drift off course, and then you must retrieve, repair and re-deploy a satellite. Then augur the shuttle in for a smooth landing – and then get in line for your next mission, which begins almost immediately after your previous one. (Did we mention that, in this game’s universe, you’re NASA’s only shuttle pilot and mission specialist?) (Activision, 1983)
Memories: Activision‘s excessively cool shuttle flight sim piqued my interest just as a later Apple II resource-management game, Project Space Station, did. I’ve always liked the idea of a modern-day (or five-minutes-into-the-future, as was the case with Project) space sim that doesn’t involve blowing stuff up. Space exploration fascinates me, but it didn’t fascinate enough people to allow this game to make a dent in the Atari VCS market. Its peaceful, workaday space trucker premise may not have made for an exciting game, and its complex control scheme – which utilized every difficulty and setting switch on the VCS console, in addition to the joystick and fire button – probably didn’t help.
Don’t even get me started on how shuttle flights had become routine within two years of Columbia’s first launch.
I enjoyed Space Shuttle quite a bit, but then again, I was a space buff (and still am). The masses were most likely lost on this one.