High Orbit For Apple
Oak Ridge, TN
I opened the package with anticipation. High Orbit seemed pretty ordinary for a computer game: a disk, some P.R. from Gebelli Software, the company that sells High Orbit, and a sheet of rather cryptic instructions.
I booted the disk in the usual way, and High Orbit immediately became very unordinary. My mouth fell open as I listened to the fastest disk boot I had ever heard. I later timed the furious "clickclickclick" of the head stepper motor: it was reading seven tracks per second! Apple DOS generally reads a track and a half per second.
The program then went into a nice demo mode which included some animated three-dimensional graphics, but nothing to give a clue as to what the game was all about. I tried for five minutes to start the game. I tried every key, but nothing worked. Oh well, when all else fails, read the directions. Aha! Control-R starts the game.
High Orbit starts with three dots that zoom onto the screen from the depths of space, which is gratifyingly free of stars. The object of the game is to "construct a space station" by moving a little fuzz ball (which represents a piece of the station) onto each of the dots using a tractor beam. To make it a bit more challenging, the dots spin around each other in a circle, and you can use the tractor beam for only a limited amount of time before it has to recharge. On top of that, there are the ubiquitous enemy spaceships that zip onto the screen and destroy your fuzz balls, so you have to start all over again. (You can destroy enemy spaceships, if you are fast enough, and that is a big "if.")
When (and if) you manage to maneuver a fuzz ball onto each of the dots at the same time, the space station is suddenly transformed into an abstract, three-dimensional shape which undergoes some breathtaking gyrations, splits in two, and starts spinning again.
The next phase is to "energize" the space station by moving yet another fuzz ball into the center (and I do mean the exact center) of the station and zapping it with your laser. Enemy spaceships will again try to destroy your supply of fuzz balls before you can get one fuzz ball into the center and destroy it.
If you are successful, the station stops spinning, becomes rainbow colored, and turns itself inside out, depositing the "crew" in deep space. The crew of the space station is just three little humanoid figures which pop onto the screen and do not move. The space station drops back into the depths of space, giving the impression that the crew is being launched into high orbit (hence the name of the program).
The last and final phase consists mainly of watching a shuttle pick up the crew. According to the instructions, you have to move the crew in front of the shuttle with your tractor beam, but I never had to. The shuttle seems to know where to go, and it will even destroy enemy spaceships that stray too close.
So how do you lose? Enemy spaceships cannot destroy you; in fact, you cannot be destroyed at all. Aye, but here's the rub: the space station must be constructed and energized before time expires. You get about two minutes to finish. If you do not, the game stops, and "mission incomplete" flashes on the screen.
If you do manage to complete a station within the time limit, you get a new station to build, but this one has four points instead of three. This goes on until you complete a six-point station. Then you go back to three points, but enemy spaceships get more aggressive. Every time you complete a station, a little colored square appears in a long hollow bar at the bottom of the screen. The bar is very long; I managed to fill up only about one-fifth of it with colored squares. You can always restart the game at the point where you last ran out of time.
High Orbit is a unique and challenging game. The graphics are well done and use the Apple's color capabilities to their fullest. It is a joy to play, provided you use a joystick. Paddles can be frustrating, and keyboard control was a frightening experience. (One nice feature of the keyboard control, though, is that you can redefine which key controls which function.) There seem to be enough levels of difficulty to keep even the best player occupied for a long, long time (although I was not able to get past the first few levels!).
All in all, High Orbit is an excellent game for all ages. It is challenging but not frustrating, simple but not boring. It requires a 48K Apple II with a disk drive. A joystick is not necessary, but it is very desirable.
1787 Tribute Road
Sacramento, CA 95815
Requires 48K, disk