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Rescue on Fractalus - The Atari Times

Rescue on Fractalus

Few games are as impressive as this
by Jonathan Rose

February 28, 2004
One of the real joys of classic gaming is picking up a game at, say, a thrift shop, that you've never heard of before and getting to take it home and play it for the first time. Unfortunately, when you get it home and pop it in, it more often than not turns out to be mediocre at best. Sometimes it's more like stepping out on your front lawn to get the paper and stepping in dog poop. Especially in the case of the 2600, there are simple gads of dreadfull games to be had, (by companies like Mythicon and Froggo for example). One of the cool things about collecting for the 5200 is that a good 75% of the games for the system are good to great in quality. Turds are a rarity. And some games, like Rescue on Fractalus, are simply put, amazing. 

I had never heard of this game, in any form, back in the heydey of Atari. I am dead convinced if games like this had been more visible, the 5200 would have taken the market by storm. RoF, as I'll call it from now on, is a totally original, absolutely addicting, and groundbreaking title for it's day. It will STILL kill a Saturday afternoon with no problem.

I managed to get my hands on a mint condition, never before opened copy of this game awhile back, and when I finally got it in the mail and popped it in the Big Black Beast, I was absolutely amazed. RoF is published by Lucasarts (yes, THAT Lucasarts), and is, I believe -correct me if I'm wrong here- , the first game to ever use fractally generated 3d landscapes in a game. Yep. 3d. On a 5200.

The goal of the game is to fly your starship down onto the planet Fractalus (fractal landscapes/fractalus, get it?) and rescue stranded fighter pilots while fending off attacks from laser bases and flying saucers. Think Moonsweeper in three dimensions and you'll get the idea. When you track down a guy on your scanner, you must clear the area and land your ship, deactivate the shields, and open the hatch to let him in. You have to be careful to make sure it's not a baddie too, because they sometimes try to trick you into letting them on board your ship. If that happens, you have to switch on your shields really fast and kill it. You then return to the orbiting space station and continue making trips down to the surface.

The graphics, as mentioned above, are incredible for their day. Fully rendered mountain ranges and valleys seen through your highly detailed cockpit, complete with functional instrumentation. It's amazing something like this can be done on a 16k system, and done well. Graphics back then don't get any more impressive than this. Even in the arcades! Perfect 10.

The audio is good too, with lots of believable sounds and nice details like knocking sounds on your hull when one of your pilots wants in the hanger. The engines make a cool sounding whine, and everything is as it should be. 

The control is (amazingly) perfect. Like Star Raiders, the 5200 controller is perfectly suited to this kind of game, and plays wonderfully. Also like Star Raiders, there are lots of ship controls, accessed by various numbers on the keypad, which add to the immersion level. With the usually balky 5200 controllers, control doesn't get any tighter than this.

All in all, this is the single most impressive, fun, and challenging game on the system. If you have a 5200, and want one game to prove why the 5200 should have reigned, get RoF. Trust me, it's worth every penny. 100% all the way.

Hmmm... Not that exciting of a title screen if you ask me...
This looks great when it's moving!
Is this one of your men or an alien?
Rescue on Fractalus
System: 5200
Publisher: Lucasfilm Games
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 100%
Sound & Music Score: 100%
Gameplay Score: 100%
Control Score: 100%

Final Score: 100%

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