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Space Jockey - The Atari Times

Space Jockey

Save your money
by Ethan C. Nobles

December 3, 2004
Ever hear someone talk about the video game crash of 1984? If you have, they'll no doubt talk about the low-quality, third-party games for the Atari 2600 which absolutely flooded the market. Space Jockey, released by U.S. Games Corp. in 1982, is one of those games. This title isn't exactly horrible, but it's certainly uninspired and just plain boring.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Space Jockey is that it was programmed by Garry Kitchen. You know, the same programmer who produced such Activision greats as Keystone Kapers and Pressure Cooker. Pretty weak effort here, Mr. Kitchen.

In Space Jockey, you are put in charge of a large, green unidentified flying object which looks a lot like a hamburger. Your mission? Destroy hot air balloons, tanks, airplanes trees and houses on an unidentified planet. See the problem with this? The player, apparently, assumes the role of an alien attacking earth-bound vehicles. Uh, who wants to take part in something like that? Who wants to play a game in which points can be scored by blowing up earthlings' houses? That's just a rotten concept.

Odder still is the fact there are 16 game variations and, on half of them, you're ship won't explode when you come in contact with an enemy vessel, tree or house. The game is simple and mind-numbing enough as it is, so why make it easier? There are some other options worth mentioning, too. This is a side-scrolling shooter and the player can choose to either move his ship strictly on a vertical plane or have the ability to move horizontally and wander all over the screen. Also, the player can choose whether to be confronted by enemies which move predictably or at random. Also, there's a very bad option which allows the player to direct his shots (which can really get confusing if you tend to shoot and move at the same time - the shot will go the same direction in which the ship is moving).

Regardless of which option you choose, you'll likely get bored in a hurry with this game. Still, the most challenging variation - in my opinion, at least - is number 15 because the player can't control the direction of his shots, but enemies move at random, the ship can be moved horizontally and vertically and collisions will destroy the flying hamburger. Extra lives are awarded for every 1,000 points scored. That can be a drawback because it's easy to rack up 1,000 points, so this game just goes on and on and on...

The graphics are rather plain, but not too bad. This is a two-kilobyte cartridge, so you shouldn't expect much. The items on the screen are very large and well-defined, and the action takes place over a landscape which never changes - it's kind of brown and has some dips in it. Yawn. At least screen flicker isn't a problem.

The sound stinks, too. It, much like the graphics, is very plain and none to exciting. The Atari makes an obnoxious sound whenever a shot is fired, and that "fake laser" noise simply gets aggravating after a time. If you must play this game, at least find some good music to play in the background.

The one saving grace is the control. The ship is very easy to guide around the screen and the joystick is quite responsive. This game might not be much fun, at least the controls are good.

As I hinted earlier, the gameplay is just plain boring. It starts out rather ho-hum at first, and then goes downhill from there as nothing ever changes. You start out blasting wave after wave of enemies, and they just dumbly fly at you and shoot at your ship until you're either destroyed or - more likely - you cut off the game out of sheer boredom.

I do believe I've made my point - you can do without this game. The cartridge is quite common, but I'd only advise getting it if you can find it for either free or some price close to that.

Space Jockey

(c) U. S. Games

I always think of the alien in the chair from ALIEN when I think of this title.
Take that you lousy alien!
Now I have my revenge!
Space Jockey
System: 2600
Publisher: U. S. Games
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 70%
Sound & Music Score: 60%
Gameplay Score: 70%
Control Score: 95%

Final Score: 70%

Reader Comments for Space Jockey

Harsh. by Narifia on 2007-05-10 14:28:50
The concept isn't all bad. It just lacks a compelling storyline. After all, games about shooting up humans and earthlings have made a decent go recently, what with the game Destroy All Humans, and it even spawned a sequel, Destroy All Humans 2. It's just a bad concept for a 1980's game, where I suppose people were a little more sensitive about that. Nowadays, there are games about shooting up puppies and gangsters and schoolchildren, for God's sake! Space Jockey is HARDLY what I would call an outcry on moral decency ;)

Space Jockey IS mediocre. But it's fun in spurts, if you're in the mood to shoot random crap. I personally like imagining the hot air balloons as my boss's head ;)
My favorite U.S. game by Randy Johnson on 2014-07-24 16:54:53
This has always been my favorite game that was made by U.S. Games/Vidtec. Commando Raid is my 2nd favorite. While most stores charged $20.00-$30.00 per Atari 2600 game, Revco sold this and other U.S. Games for $5.50 each.
This game has different game variations. On some game variations, the players UFO can only be moved up and down. On other game variations, the players UFO can be moved all over the screen.
Shooting tanks and planes earn 100 points. Shooting balloons earn 50 points. Shooting trees or houses earn 25 points. This isn't the best Atari 2600 game but I've seen far crappier games for that console.
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