Chair Force Engineer

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blast From the Past

One of my new favorite hobbies is playing emulated video games on my PC. The blocky 8-bit graphics are crude yet nostalgic. Some of the game designs were so well thought-out that the games are still classic and addictive.

One of my stops down memory lane was Space Shuttle Project by Absolute Entertainment. That's right, there was a Nintendo game based on the space shuttle program. And it was probably enough to excite a nerdy, space-loving eight-year-old like myself during those days. The grainy voices of mission control featured in the game were pretty neat for their day. The gameplay itself is somewhat tedious; the player must execute a sequence of tasks using the control pad (I'm using a Playstation controller, which plugs into my PC's USB port through an adapter.) A keen memory really helps in this game. Having the instruction manual would also help, since the control scheme for each task is different.

For science-minded boys playing the game, I'm sure it was pretty educational about the major events in the shuttle flight sequence, the propellant loading operation, and the satellite deployment mission. It also includes bitterly funny moments; when the player runs out of chances during the launch sequence, he/she gets a newspaper which says "Shuttle Launch Aborted; Crew Ejectes (sic) Safely." I guess it's not okay to tell kids that the astronauts are doomed in the event of a major anomaly between liftoff and the point where a transatlantic abort is possible. After all, this game was produced just five years after the Challenger disaster, and it was important to reassure kids about America's vibrant future in space.

Space Shuttle Project didn't get very popular, and few (if any) console games of this sort were produced again (There is a Space Camp game for Wii, but it looks like shovelware upon first glance.) Luckily, people who are serious space enthusiasts can still play along with Orbiter on their home PC's.