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Video Game: Rescue on Fractalus!

Rescue on Fractalus! is a 1984 game by Lucasfilm Games—one of the first games created by the young company.

You are a space pilot on a search-and-rescue mission to rescue downed spacemen stranded among the jagged mountains of planet Fractalus. Your task is to track down the crash-landed spaceships, land nearby and let the pilots into your ship, all while dealing with anti-aircraft turrets and nasty kamikaze UFOs. At the time of its release, the game awed the players with its fractal-based, real-time kinda-3D graphics.

One of the most memorable and infamous things about the game was that, sometimes, aliens would disguise themselves as human pilots. When such an impostor approached your ship, instead of the familiar knock-knock of a pilot wishing to be let in, you'd be treated to the sight of an alien jumping onto the cockpit window and smashing it, killing you if you didn't reactivate your shields fast enough. This was considered really frightening (especially since the manual only hinted at it), making Rescue one of the first truly scary video games.


Tropes on Fractalus!

  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Ace pilots wear purple helmets instead of the usual white. Aliens' heads are green.
    • Later on, the aliens get savvy enough to wear the white helmets.
  • Creator Cameo: The programmers posed in costume as pilots for the packaging and manual.
  • Excited Game Title!
  • Executive Meddling: Positive example—it was George Lucas who insisted the game have a combat element, as well as suggesting the alien impostor Jump Scare.
  • Fighter Launching Sequence: A first-person launch sequence from the player's orbital base to the planet below.
  • Fog of Doom: The acidic atmosphere both reduces visibility and dissolves the flight suits of exposed pilots.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: A day on Fractalus lasts only nine minutes, and it gets dark enough at night that you can only see by the flashes of weapons fire.
    • Endless Daytime: The first 15 missions take place near the south pole during the summer, so you don't have to worry about the sun setting.
  • Inspiration For The Work: Lucasfilm's Loren Carpenter was responsible for the Genesis Effect CGI in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Game designer David Fox asked him if a similar landscape could be animated on a home computer, and Carpenter coded a demo that became the seed of Fractalus.
  • Jump Scare: The alien's attack.
    David Fox: I still get emails from people recalling their first experience with the Jaggi monster. People have fallen off chairs, let out an involuntary scream that brought college dorm-mates running to see if they were okay, and kids have run out of the room crying to their mothers (I don't feel too good about that one).
  • Meaningful Name: "Fractalus", the planet with a landscape generated through fractal theory. The alien "Jaggi", meanwhile, had their name inspired by the pixelated, jagged graphics.
  • Scoring Points: In addition to hundreds of points for destroying enemies and rescuing allies, you receive one point for every second of flight.
  • Serial Numbers Filed Off: invoked The initial design document for what was then called Rebel Rescue had you piloting an "X-Wing-like craft" and specified that "any similarities between this game and the rescue scene on the ice planet Hoth are purely coincidental." (Prior to Lucasfilm getting into game development, it had sold off the video game rights to Star Wars.)
  • Technical Pacifist: As originally designed, the player would have flown an unarmed rescue craft, whose only defense against enemy saucers would be to lure them into crashes against the canyon walls. The lead developer described himself as "a peace-loving hippie at heart," who "didn't want to create a game in which you had to shoot things."
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: If you aren't interested in actually rescuing your comrade, there are plenty of ways to kill him instead, such as turning on your fighter's engines when he's outside (instantly incinerating him), shooting his crashed ship while he's sheltering inside it, or refusing to open your airlock when he knocks to be let in (the acidic atmosphere of the planet eats through his spacesuit and kills him if he stays outside for more than a minute you can actually hear his knocks getting fainter and feebler as time passes).
  • Wingdinglish: The low resolution makes it not immediately obvious, but the Jaggi lettering is English turned sideways. It spells out the developers' initials.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: The disguised aliens.
  • Working Title: Behind Jaggi Lines


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