#174 – Destination Earthstar

Blast off to boredom
I’m sorry for any kid who had to suffer through this.
Oh look, gameplay!



DEVELOPER: Imagineering

GENRE: Flight sim

RELEASE DATE: February 1990

I commented in my review of Defender II that the emptiness of space is captured well in classic games. While I stand by that statement, I should have added an asterisk: all classic games, but one. Destination Earthstar makes space feel boring. Because it’s a first-person flight simulator/shooter thing, all you see is dark space in the top half of your screen, along with pixelated stars and the occasional enemy ship. The bottom half of your screen is a mix of important information like the energy of your craft, and less important stats like your “P” meter??? and your SPD-ometer??? Most of the screen readout doesn’t make any sense, but the real hoot are the controls. Good luck picking up this baby and knowing exactly what to do. You can enter hyperspace by pressing “Up” and “B,” toggle your viewpoint by pressing “Select” and “B.” But don’t worry, the essentials are the same: “A” is fire and to pause you press… “A” and “B” at the same time?

Alright, in a rare attempt at classic gaming diplomacy, let’s give Acclaim the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the controls are a little backward in this game, but no wannabe flight simulator on the NES is going to be easy right? Perhaps the combat and the missions make up for it! On your map (see above screenshot), your enemies are represented by the numbers 1-9 (for difficulty? Not sure), planets are represented by 0, armories by “A,” and friendly bases by “B.” Your goal is to clear the map of enemies, then enter the enemy base. The game then turns into a ridiculously difficult 2D shooter where you must kill the boss of the enemy base. As I played Destination Earthstar, I decided that it was simply mediocre and a little boring, but nothing too abominable, besides the controls. Then as I was gunning down some enemies in the first-person mode, I ran out of my weapon. It wasn’t like I was using any special upgraded weaponry. These were just your run-of-the-mill laser pellets found at the beginning of any space shooter! Needless to say, I died in a fit of frothy rage. Did the game glitch? Was my “perfectly legal” copy messed up? I don’t know, but a combination of poor game design, mediocrity, and poor controls leave me cold, much like the shriveled nethers of space.


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3 replies on “#174 – Destination Earthstar”

As a huge fan of Atari’s Star Raiders, I really tried to like this game. The first person view mode is even passable, though the combat is nowhere near as smooth as Atari’s game released over a decade(!) earlier. But the 2D shooter sections really finish it off. I’ve yet to successfully complete that, though in general I hate 2D shooters.

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