Saturday, June 27, 2009

SPACE ACE: Now for the iPhone

It was the summer of 1984 and new video game company was making its mark with the release of two revolutionary games with a different type of graphical game play: Laser Discs.  For those too young to remember what the heck a LASER DISC was/is, just think of it as the grandfather of the modern day DVD disk - looks like a DVD disc but about the size of a vinyl record.

The name of that video game company?  Don Bluth Studios.  Yes, the very same Don Bluth Studios that made his beginning mark with Walt Disney company and then broke out solo with his own company and did some other full feature length projects like The Secret of NIMH (one of my favorites) and also went on to create An American Tail, The Land Before Time, All Dogs Go to Heaven, etc.

The name of the game?  Space Ace.  Space Ace is the story of Dexter (who can transform with an energy power-up to become Space Ace) who seeks to rescue the damsel, Kimberly, from the evil character, called Borf. 

What makes this game so cool?  Don Bluth Studios had this idea of immersing the patron into this story using cell animation artwork and decision trees.  You are presented with a video of a scene unfolding and while the scene is unfolding a decision has to be reached and your reaction time and decision decide on which way the story goes and how successful Ace is during the scene.  For instance - Ace could be running away from a group of angry aliens and the game presents you with Ace running through a hallway, and at the end of that hallway are two doors - one to the left and the other to the right.  During the scene, both doors will flash, signifying that a decision must be made - and if you choose the LEFT door the scene would progress further, but if you chose the RIGHT door and Ace took it, there might be another alien behind that door or that door might be locked or something and the scene would end, and you would lose one of your lives and have to replay the scene again, until you get it right.

What was so revolutionary about that?  The graphics.  Remember - we are in 1984 and games to this point are LED lines and simple 8 bit characterizations of entities - Defender, Pac Man, Donkey Kong, etc.  Simple game visualizations with more complex game mechanics.

Donkey Kong, 1981

Space Ace, 1984

Space Ace was starting a whole new revolution in game play. Needless to say, at age 10-12, I wasted many a quarters on Space Ace and Dragon's Lair (same game maker and cell animated artwork).  I used to ride my bike over to the local video arcade in San Jose - The Galactigan (I think was the name - but I cannot find any Internet reference to it) and plunk down many of my quarters on this game.  My mother would have a fit when she found out that my brother and I visited the local arcade.  She was constantly watching out for us to ensure we were staying away the 'drug-pushers' and low lifes found within' the confines of her stereotyped view of a video arcade.  Of course, Dungeons and Dragons was also viewed as the Devil's Game also - but I am a super fan of that type of game  play. 

Video Arcades aren't what they used to be, given the current state of games - I can see pretty good graphics and game play without ever having to leave my home.  The whole social aspect of and meaning behind a good romp at the local video arcade are lost to an entire generation of PSP, DS and Wii users (and X-Box, PS2/PS3 fans, too).

Now, the game is available for my iPhone - and for a measly $5.00.  How extraordinary is that? A quality stroll down the nostalgia video arcade of the 80's, sans the evil connotations associated with that journey.  Well - I certainly won't disappoint my nostalgia itch, for a mere $5.00.  It appears that I will indeed be plunking down another 20 or so quarters... on this game, once again.  Don't worry Mom - this time, we don't have to worry about drug dealers or nefarious evil doers, unless of course we are referring to Borf, when I kick his ass in the game!

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