Space Jockey (Vidtec/U.S. Games)
Space Jockey is... a game... I think that's truly the highest praise I can give it, It does nothing new, it does nothing special, it is the most vanilla side scrolling shooter on the system. This is rather saddening since this game was programmed by Garry Kitchen... The same Garry Kitchen who programmed Keystone Kapers, Pressure Cooker, and Donkey Kong, I don't know what happened, but to see such creativity boiled down to something so basic is rather sad to see. Your first clue as to the baseness of this game comes in the form to the box itself. The layout doesn't instill very much confidence, and the picture used doesn't either, because the picture they used on the front and back of the box looks worse than the in-game graphics. I can decipher all but one of those weird blobby objects, there's the hot air balloon, the jet plane, the helicopter, the... other plane, the saucer, but... is that supposed to be a tank? that looks more like a paper crane with treads than a tank. So... we know that the graphics in-game are far better than what's on the box, but how much better are they?
I won't lie, this game looks rather good, it's very basic, but good. Your flying saucer looks decent, especially when compared to the three horizontal lines on the box (seriously that's not a flying saucer, that's a hot dog in a really short bun.) All the enemy sprites well designed and multi colored. I can tell what they are with just a quick glance. The environment though is a different story, you fly over a rather smoothly scrolling approximation of the ground, it's lumpy and brown so I guess it could be hills. But the background is black which as I've stated multiple times before is a big 'ol no-no. I've also said many times before that a star-field would liven things up dramatically. Just something else to look at would have been nice.
Sounds... Extremely basic, you shoot, they shoot, you explode, they explode... Four sounds, enjoy them in all of their crunchy glory. Seriously though, that has got to be the crunchiest explosion I've ever heard.
The gameplay is where this game just fails, for me at least. All you do is fly to the right and shoot enemies. You can only fly up or down, there is no free movement here, unless you choose the specific game-mode variations. I'm getting bored just thinking about this, you can try to get fancy and shoot every enemy per 'wave' but you'll probably just hang around at the bottom of the screen shooting the low flying enemies, trees, houses, and the occasional tank, and rolling the score multiple times in the process, you'll never run out of lives, I maxed mine out within five minutes of starting the game. Can you see what I'm getting at? there's not heart to this, there's no soul! This game feels like it was made under contract on a tight schedule not allowing for the creativity we know this programmer for. It's a sterile monotonous, side scrolling shooter, and after this review I don't think I'll ever play it again, which is what saddens me the most. Games are made to be played, and there are few things more depressing than a game that's not worth playing.
Vanguard came out in 1982, the same year that U.S. Games released Space Jockey under their Vidtec label, and I know which game I'd rather play to get my side-scrolling shooter fix. I wouldn't pay more that a dollar for a loose copy of Space Jockey, it's so unremarkable that I keep forgetting that I actually have two copies of this game, one loose and one boxed, I keep saying that I should get rid of the loose one but I just forget to do it within five minutes of saying it. How disappointing... What a sad review.