Fifty years ago, at the end of an incredible endeavor, the first men set foot on the Moon. Such a result, considered nearly impossible only ten years before, it now looks even more incredible if you consider that the first human flight ever, only occurred in 1903. Only 66 years passed since that 17 December 1903 when, on the sands of North Carolina’s coast, a heavier-than-air machine separated from the ground for a real, although very short, flight.
After the Eagle landed on the Moon, a few games with a lunar landing theme were produced, the most notable of which was probably Lunar Lander by Atari (1979). Then, in 1982, the Japanese software house HAL Laboratory, Inc. produced a clone for the C64, called Jupiter Lander.
Jupiter Lander was likely one of the first games for the C64 and it shows since its arcade gameplay was really thought to be a sort of “coin-eater” rather than an entertaining product. Your goal was to guide the landing module through the last seconds of its descent toward the ground, while the ship was constantly accelerating due to the gravitational field.
Like in real life, the amount of fuel in your tanks was particularly scarce, so you really needed to keep the speed under control and fire up your thrusters only for few split seconds in order to adjust your trajectory. Unlike Lunar Lander where, as far as I know, the landscape was randomly generated, this game featured a single screen that sported three different landing spots with different difficulty levels but, also, much higher rewards.
Such rewards mostly consisted in a greater amount of fuel for your next run, but the game was so frustrating that I never spent much time with it. I recently played Jupiter Lander again, emulated by VICE on my SAM machine, only to re-discover again that my poor achievements of 1982 were only partly due to my lack of skills with this kind of games: this software was boring in itself, since once mastered (if you were good enough to do it) there was nothing else to do with it. Yet, it does have some historical value, so it might be a good idea to give it a try.
So, 50 years have passed and man has not set foot on the Moon again since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. Nonetheless, space exploration is not over yet, and one day we will take off to conquer Mars. I probably won’t be around to write an article about a Mars Lander game but you never know: after all, we are still here, often writing about a computer that was supposed to be dead over 30 years ago.