Saturday, April 30, 2022

Star Maze

Name:Star Maze
Developer:Eastman Computing
Time:30 minutes

One of the interesting things about 1982 is that you have half titles from randos whose only notable contribution to gaming is Space Defender IV, and another half are people who were absolutely vital to the creation of gaming as we know it. Today's topic is a combination of those two things, we have Gordon Eastman, author of Star Maze and something I'd describe as an arcade money grabbing game, and Robert J. Woodhead...who if you didn't know is The Mad Overlord Trebor of Wizardry fame. Though he's only credited as coming up with the original design.
The story is, in 2891, explorers have discovered an alien artifact of immense value, inside something that was called the Star Maze. Many valuable jewels, power sources, but guarded by vicious aliens. So, being that the people of the future are lazy bums*, they built a time machine and published a simulation of the Star Maze for computers of the 1980s. Now, they await the high score in Softline magazine. Seems like a silly gimmick, but what do I know?
*even the back of the box calls them wimps.
Anyway, once I start up the game, my objective is clear, find 9 power jewels in each of the 16 levels in the Star Maze. Or more precisely, take flashing crosses back to the point I spawned from. Preventing me from doing this are various enemies, and my own limited fuel supply. You'd think people in 2891 would have a better one, but then they aren't even doing this themselves. You'd also think that this fuel would lower as I thrust my ship in some direction, but it just steadily goes down. To prevent these enemies from killing me I have smart bombs and a laser gun.

The various shapes that make up the enemies are actually quite interesting. You have your asteroids that break up into smaller pieces; Two different enemies that shouldn't be attacked because they'll cause more problems after they're hurt than before; and the standard shooty enemies. If this were a well designed game this might actually be an interesting selection.
Carrying one of the cross objects
Sadly, there are many problems. Level design is randomized, so that 16 level advertisement is pointless. We've got physics! My ship and my shots bounce off walls and speed is consistent until you press another direction on the joystick. Thing is this all feels awful. The engine feels weak, which might just be my own bias towards these games, but I do notice weird things happening with my shots. But none of this compares to how the game feels.

This game is boring. Death in a game should produce frustration, or rage, or something. If I felt anything, I would say it was resignation. You start with three ships, and losing all three means starting again. It was annoying, and I wasn't about to use a save state for a game this tedious and this boring. There's just nothing interesting about it. I wonder if the man the future wimps kidnapped was as bored as I was?

Meh. 0/10

By far the only interesting aspect of the game. 3/10


Random garbage. 0/10

Player Agency:
It works, I guess, but its not terribly exciting. 2/10



More offensive than nothing. 0/10


Your typical blips and bloops. Hitting the walls and getting a bouncing sound was a nice touch though. 1/10

That's 6. An embarrassment. Stay far, far away.

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