I think of all the first-person space shooting/exploration games for the VCS, Starmaster is probably the best overall, objectively. I think it strikes the best balance between arcade-style gameplay and simulator- or strategy gaming, and I like its crisp but not overly complicated graphics and sounds. Star Raiders was a noble and ambitious effort (and the use of the Video Touch Pad was a nice touch) but is a little rough and clunky for my liking. Star Voyager is *thisclose* to being my favorite of the lot, but its weapons system ruins it for me--I feel like it punishes you for playing the game the way it wants to be played (that is, with the lasers, and not those stupid torpedoes that never hit anything). Phaser Patrol is very nice overall, but I have to be in the mood to horse around with setting up the Supercharger and tape recorder...and the game itself doesn't really inspire that kind of motivation.
Star Ship, though...that's my guy. Straight-up, no bullshit arcade gameplay. It is essentially a stylized, electronic, carnival shooting gallery game. The 2-player modes, various difficulty settings, and the Space Race and Lunar Lander games mix things up nicely. Even within the simple gameplay, there's more than meets the eye, as the game can really be distilled into split-second decision-making, risk vs. reward, and racing against time--even deciding when to press the Reset switch and "jump into" the game can have an effect on your score. Small modicums of strategy even come into play, such as intentionally crashing into things to get in position to shoot at higher-value targets behind them. "Primitive" may not even begin to describe the graphics, but I actually really like the use of color, and I love the retro sci-fi "beep-boop-bleep" sound effects. And being a 1977 release, it's about as retro as retro gets. When I think of "retro games," this is the kind of game I think of*. Overall, not a bad way to burn 10-15 minutes in my book.
(*Although, I'm still a bit stuck in the early 2000s, when "retrogaming" actually meant these kinds of games, and not SNES. )
In the interest of full disclosure, I do have a little bit of personal attachment and history with Star Ship as well (which doesn't make that other stuff less true, mind ). I "discovered" this game very early in my collecting career, in 2003, I think. I don't think I'd even heard of it when I found a crusty old copy in a game shop I frequented with my girlfriend (now wife). When we got it back to my parents' house that night (I was still in high school), I remember not being able to figure out why the controls didn't seem to respond, nor--thanks to the fairly abstract graphics--could I immediately determine what was actually supposed to be going on, until my kid sister played around with the second joystick and actually got the game to do stuff. We figured the games out pretty quickly and the three of us had a blast with it for hours, with my sister making up goofy backstories and things like only an 8-year-old could. Still one of my favorite gaming memories.
Edited by BassGuitari, Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:32 PM.