Star Ship was one of the nine Atari 2600 titles that launched with the system in 1977. There are three different styles of game contained on the cartridge, each with their own variations. In "Star Ship," you pilot a craft in search of enemy vessels to destroy. In "Warp Drive," you steer a vessel through an Asteroid Field at break-neck speeds. And in "Lunar Lander" you safely guide a craft on to the surface of a moon. Each game lasts two minutes and 16 seconds (per player).
Star Ship is a modified presentation of the 1977 Atari arcade game Starship 1. While color was added in comparison to the arcade's black & white display, the resolution of the console version could not match the impressive 512 × 240 resolution that the arcade could produce.
A second player could join in the fun, in a "Star Ship" game as an independently controlled enemy target, or by controlling the position of moon in "Lunar Lander". The difficulty switches could be set to make the game harder by weakening your lasers in "Star Ship" or by forcing you to land directly on the moon in "Lunar Lander". It was released as Outer Space under the Sears Telegames label.
- Color/BW: Switch between color display and black & white display. (This feature made the game look better on black & white TVs that were still prominent at the time of the game's release.)
- Left/Right Difficulty Switch: Set the left or right difficulty switch to A to make certain games hard than when set to B. See each games controls for more information.
- Game Select: Select a game variation. The variations cycle from 1 to 17 and start back over at 1. See the Game Variation chart below.
- Game Reset: Starts a new game in whatever game variation is currently selected. Both players' scores are reset to 0, and the timer starts over.
Note:Unlike many Atari 2600 games, the first player is intended to use the right side controller, and the second player uses the left side during a two-player game.
- Joystick: Use the joystick to steer your craft through space. Your view of space is shown as you see it from the cockpit.
- Up: Press up to make your craft dive. This causes objects to move up across the screen.
- Down: Press down to make your craft climb. This causes objects to move down across the screen.
- Left: Press up to turn your craft left. This causes objects to move right across the screen.
- Right: Press up to turn your craft right. This causes objects to move left across the screen.
- Button: Press the button to increase your speed through space.
- Left/Right Difficulty Switch: No effect.
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The Star Ship games (game variations 1 through 9) cast the right player as the captain of a star ship cruiser on a mission to eradicate any and all hostile encounters. It's kill or be killed because if you don't shoot your target, or get out of its way in time, you will collide and lose precious seconds. You only have two minutes and 16 seconds to get as high a score as possible. New targets appear as soon as old ones are removed, so eliminate them quickly to achieve higher scores. The options for a Star Ship game include:
- Slow or Fast Moving Space Objects.
- Single or Double Objects.
- One or two player games.
Fast Moving Space Objects: In this mode, objects approach your ship much faster than in a Slow Moving Space Object game, giving you less time to react to their appearance and increasing the chances of a collision. Think fast, and react faster!
Double Objects: During a Double Objects game, two different objects can, and will, appear on the screen for you to contend with instead of only one object at a time. Focus on the target that is closer to you to reduce the threat of collision.
Two player game: In a two player game, the left player takes command of a Space Module that can be seen on the screen. The left player's only goal is to avoid ending up in the cross hairs of the right player's star ship. If the left player is hit, the right player scores 2 points. After two minutes and 16 seconds, the players switch roles and the left player attempts to out score the right player. There are a few extra options for two-player games in addition to the ones listed above.
- Asteroids: In game variation 5, the only object that the star ship will encounter is the Space Module itself. In game variations 6 through 9, the star ship will also have to contend with the presence of indestructible Asteroids.
- Hostile Forces: In game variations 5 through 7, the only target that the star ship has to earn points by shooting is the Space Module. In game variations 8 and 9, the star ship can also earn points by destroying other vessels that show up in space.
The Warp Drive games (game variations 10 and 11) have one single goal: Go as far and as fast as possible through an asteroid field in two minutes and 16 seconds. The fire button becomes a thruster, and the longer you press it, the faster you go. Dodge the asteroid clusters or you lose a unit of distance covered. There is only one variation for this game:
- Single or Double Objects.
Double Objects: During a Double Objects game, two sets of asteroid clusters will appear on the screen for you to contend with instead of only one cluster at a time. You must steer between both clusters to safely guide your ship through this more congested sector of space.
The Lunar Lander games (game variations 12 through 17) sees the left player as the pilot of a Lunar Lander module, attempting to make a successful landing on a mobile target. You must guide the Lunar Lander as close to the Moon as possible before firing off your retro rockets, which allow you to safely touch down on the surface. Note that if the Lunar Lander of the Moon move off one side of the television screen, they will reappear on the opposite side of the screen. The options for a Lunar Lander game include:
- Meteor Showers.
- Slow or Fast Showers.
- One or two player games.
Meteor Showers: In game variations 12 and 15, the only objects on the screen are the Lunar Lander and the Moon. All other variations of the Lunar Lander game feature Meteor Showers. Meteors of different sizes and speeds cross the screen and must be avoided by the Lunar Lander, creating a moving obstacle course. The player loses one point for every collision with a meteor.
Slow or Fast Showers: In game variations 14 and 17, the meteor showers move twice as fast as those found in game variations 13 and 16, making them more difficult to dodge and requiring better timing on the part of the Lunar Lander pilot in order to slip past them.
Two player games: In a two player game, the right player takes control of the motion of the Moon on the screen. The right player's goal is to make it as difficult as possible for the Lunar Lander to accomplish its mission. After two minutes and 16 seconds, the players swap roles and the left player must attempt to land his Lunar Lander more times than the right player did. Meteors do not affect the moon in any way.