Rescue on Fractalus!

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Comments (24)
Gildahl - 09/07/2022
Star Raiders defined the Atari 800 as a game machine for me...until Rescue on Fractalus! In fact, I've always thought of this game as the true successor to SR: The true Star Raiders II. I suppose it is obligatory here to also mention that I share in the near heart-stoppage upon my first alien encounter; my very first jump scare and still to this day the most powerful I can remember (though System Shock II and FNAF delivered some that came close). The key to both Star Raiders and Rescue were the 3D style graphics and their "complex" control scheme that gave you more than just stick and fire control. The 3D graphics in particular were something that always amazed me and provided opportunity to see though and imagine how the the future of graphics technology might look once those pixels shrunk. We've now been in that future for a while now, but even in the midst of playing Star Wars Squadrons or Elite Dangerous in VR on top end modern equipment, I find it sometimes fun to remember the games that got us here, and ponder how in their day they were every bit as fun...and perhaps just a bit more magical.
Monk - 16/06/2021
The C64-version could've been a lot faster, it was not optimally programmed (this was actually proven by some people utilizing some kind of superCPU or something).

Having said that, the C64-version sucks. It's not -just- that the Atari-version is better (and of course, it is) - but the other versions were not good conversions. About everything about the C64-version sucks, so stick to the Atari version.

However, as a sidenote - logically, the first version or prototype can be better or worse, so it's not a given that the original is the best. You see, a later version can be improved and changed for the better, problems can be fixed, features can be added, new ideas can be implemented and so on.

So in a good world, 'prototype' or original version would be good, but any later version would always be better, so the logic in some of these comments does not make sense, except that this game was clearly built for Atari, utilizing Atari's strengths and features, and the conversions were done without love or competence.

This game needs no praise from me, as everyone has already praised it, but it certainly deserves it, being so well done, so atmospheric and even cute, and of course the 'fractal' technology is very cool, advanced for its time and interesting.

I kinda like the 'Jaggi' pun that comes from David Fox and his crew being jealous that other visual and graphics teams have this advanced feature called 'anti-aliasing' to smooth the edges, but as David's team makes games for 8-bit computers, they can't utilize that feature, so the edges will always be jagged. and lines will always look pixelated.

So 'Jagged Lines' was their inescapable destiny, and they hated it, so they made it into an enemy to blast away. Of course they stylized it into 'Jaggi' (sounds similar) and gave the word 'lines' a double-meaning, so it became 'Behind Jaggi Lines' (as in 'Behind enemy lines', while still referring to the jagged (non anti-aliased) lines they were forced to use).

However, they really made the game and presentation shine as well. The last few days, I have played almost nothing but Rescue on Fractalus, trying it on different levels. I knew about the 'alien', as I already saw it in Maniac Mansion in the eighties, I remember seeing it before, I have seen screenshots, and I even noticed the green helmet and was fully prepared - and it STILL managed to scare the fjord out of me!

I love the many details they included, like the 'alien in ship' also jamming the airlock and interfering with your attempts to control the ship, the 'systems on' murdering the alien when it pounds on the window, the 'scaling' running animation (so smooth), the quirky and perfect sound effects (so much about the game is about the sound), the idea of rescuing pilots instead of just blasting things - that is still the norm in games today, the intro, the 'launch / return sequences', and the immersion all of this generates.

This game has a wonderful atmosphere and nice humor - you can even kill your own pilots by not letting them in, and the knocks become slower and weaker until the pilot dies - kind of macabre.

It's fun flying around, and the fanfares the game gives you when you complete a level are satisfying and fun, making you feel like you really achieved something.

I don't want to insult this game, but to be honest in my reviews/views of any game, I must bring out the criticism points as well.

The graphics, while technically advanced, unique, even pioneered, are a bit unclear and repetitive. Even the colors don't really ever change (the night-time only fades them out as far as I know). They could've at least had different colors for different levels.

They're functional, but they don't -really- generate sense of speed, and they don't really generate a view of a coherent 3D world, it's more like 'brown mess that you try to somehow struggle in'. The mountains don't look like proper three-dimensional mountains, so navigating in this game is all about directions and blips on your radar, not 'terrain that you can use for navigation'.

It's hard to tell how far or close you are to any given mountain, or even the ground, except through the instruments. Visually, it just looks like randomly and slowly changing mess that's hard to really call a proper 3D world (Eidolon had the same problem, as the cave looks very confusing instead of 'solid cave').

The game becomes repetitive and a bit dull after you've seen it all and done it all - rescued an Ace, had alien pound on the window, killed your own pilot, shot everything in sight, seen the launch sequence a thousand times, tried different levels, and so on. Then it's just same-ol' over and over again without much variety.

Although more involved, it's a similar problem to the old First Star game, "Astro Chase". It's best played as short bursts at a time every now and then, if you play a long time in a row, you'll get bored because there's not enough variety in the gameplay. It's great fun while it lasts, though.

All in all, a brilliant, innovative rescue game (my favorite 'genre' - but so hard to find, as it's so rare), great technical achievement, really shows what Atari can do in the right hands, beautiful graphics for awhile, great intro, wonderful details, but can get repetitive in the long run.

Nevertheless, this is highly recommended to play on your real Atari, as I have done every day for awhile now. Lucasfilm Games knew what they were doing (for awhile)..
AbbotKinneyDude - 11/09/2020
Chinny just reviewed Rescue on Fractalus on four different platforms: Atari 8-Bit, C64, Spectrum, Amstrad CPC. As expected, the Atari 8-Bit version (being the original and developed directly for the architecture) is trouncing all other versions. Having said that, the other versions actually aren't bad at all considering a different architecture (Z80) or a slower processor (C64).
Paul D. - 29/10/2017
This was a game I spent countless hours playing! I miss it and making a Raspberry Pi arcade just to replay classic Atari 800 games. :)
thax - 21/10/2013
Fantastic comments! when i played this game i always chose higher levels of play for more mountain top aliens to destroy, similar to what all have said, the fear factor in this game is just amazing, i used to travel round quite fast shooting the heck out of all things green, goose pimples from head top to toe nails and mass personal vocal prettyness from ones self, emrgency landings ,green dude anihalations, all just super exciting. used to annoy me when u landed to rescue a pilot, and a green freak on a mountain top keeps firing at you depleting your energy.....hurry up pilot! one of the best games ever. this is why my c64 collection went to the charity shop!!
Thomas - 10/12/2010
Yeah, I've remember that time,,, I was terribly sick... But on the other side it was really good to take holidays (yeah my mom took me tea and food for whole day) from school cos it's just make me try games from my Tape Cartridges what I've got with my father upgraded atari 800XE casette recorder (It was amazing when he bring it one time with yellow cord around the main on the casette recorder and said hey kids now me and my friend boost it like never ever :) Yea, we are in 21 century, but I am still playing this old games cos nothing else never exchange that feeling... and this game is shiny example of the brilliant ideas which changed me from boy to man :D yeah that alien could sent me to the wood sleeping bag I suppose.... But I've survived :) And for second time I've strong feeeeling I will go to Fractalus again......
Nostromo - 22/10/2010
I loved this game it was sooo ahead of everything else! Iv always looked for a remake with no luck...
BUT today!
Oh what a joy!!!!!!!!!
Gonzo - 16/01/2010
The best game ever. I can't forget the moment when the alien popped-up!. It was one of the scariest moment of my Childhood.
Macc - 18/08/2009
Add me to the fill-your-trousers brigade when the alien popped up. Will never forget it. The greatest game of my youth!
Lockett - 28/05/2008
I've played every version of this game, and none can touch the Atari original. Everything about it is perfect - the smooth motion, the limited pop-up, the intro, the varied sound effects, the colors, the atmosphere and suspense - everything. In my opinion, it's the best of the Lucasfilm fractal games.

That said, it would be great to have a remake of it.
Yungstar 06 - 09/01/2008
what can be said.... amazing, a classic.
a remake/update please....
Muffy St. Bernard - 14/10/2007
I used to play "Behind Jaggi Lines" an awful lot -- dark room, volume turned up, that long pause before the pilot (?) starts knocking on the door -- but this is the first time I've really played the REAL version. Differences: pilots are scarcer, some pilots are "Aces" (what's that all about?), pilots left outside too long begin to knock slower, nice warning when you're in range of a pilot, the dot on the long range scanner is much bigger, and it seems to me that you don't actually SEE the pilots as much as you do in Jaggi Lines. The music is different (dramatic notes are held instead of repeated) and, of course, the intro.
eppy2000 - 07/10/2007
Awesome game, ahead of its time! There was also a great interview with the programmers in a 1985 issue of Computer Games magazine. They discussed the genesis of this (and Ballblazer) and George Lucas's involvement. This was the first game to utilize fractal technology for home computer.
Alas, like so many Atari 8-bit breakthroughs, the news never went mainstream. Everything about the game is top notch: the gameplay, the graphics/animation, the sound effects, and the John Williams-like theme. And yes, I'm another hapless victim of the Jaggi ending my game. I knew there would be aliens in this game, but I didn't know what to expect. I had landed in a spot where the pilot wasn't visible, so I waited for the knocking sound. Instead, the thing jumped in front of the windshield. Because I had my sound on fairly loud (hooked to a boombox), I nearly got a heart attack. I was so stunned I was unable to hit the engines quickly to kill it. It took a few minutes for my body to settle down. :)
steve - 10/08/2007
Fantastic game. Realistic 3d environment great graphics and sound. The atmosphere and 'tension' created in this game was a first, im sure, in home computer games. I will never forget playing this with my friends, with the heart stopping anticipation of deciding whether the humanoid is an alien or not. Fantastic!
Spectrum and amstrad could never deliver this heightened experience, it really proved what the atari 800 could do in the right hands. Classic.
Heaven/Taquart - 09/02/2007
- great gfx
- great 3d gameplay
- great love for details
- great "battle star galactica"-like starting sequenze
- great sound engine while starting
- great title tune
- great great great

... ps... as many players first time i have seen jaggie i was falling off my seat as i played at night...boy i was suprised...
Pengwin - 09/02/2007
This was one of my favourite games back in the 80's, and still is today. I believe this and Ballblazer were the first games from Lucasfilm Games. A fantastic debut.
Andrew Bernstein - 26/09/2006
The 1987 cartridge version represented my first exposure to Rescue On Fractalus and I couldn't have been better surprised. From the groundbreaking fractal graphics, the real time approach (day and night are represented in this simulation), the fast decision making needed (do you fry this pilot ? Is he an Alien ?) to many other aspects of the gameplay make of Rescue Of Fractalus one of the best games EVER on the Atari 8bit Platform. The best part of it ? The ATARI version is the real "deal" and is way above all conversions as it was intended and developed by Lucasfilm Games for the Atari 8bit in mind. Couldn't be better !
ZeeKat - 14/05/2006
Yeah, I was among Those, Who Almost Shat Their Pants at The Alien's Attack. Awesome.
Penge - 06/05/2006
Is was that knocking on the door bit that always got me kakking it.
Retro Kid - 13/04/2006
What an amazing game. It really did show off what the Atari 8-bits could do. The intro graphics were amazing on all the lucasfilm games (do you remember the space station thing with the ships flying out of it).
But the moment that the alien popped up. Jeez, forgot your silent hills and resident evil. As a young boy staying up late to play the game, I just about had a heart attack. Even now when I play it as an adult, I still get anxious. Great.
Neopeius - 25/02/2006
Back when I was the recipient of pirated games, I received a copy of "Rescumsn" which was sort of a demo version. It didn't have a space station sequence (started right in the launch bay) and there were no hero pilots, just white humans and white/green aliens.

This was back in 1986.
Houdi - 07/08/2005
Kris is spot on with his 'fear factor' comment. I remember playing this for this first time late one night on my own. I nearly had a heart attack when that hideous Jaggi jumped up at the window of my ship. Before I'd recovered from the shock he'd smashed the window and 'Game Over'. Even after many years of playing cutting edge PC games nothing has topped that moment for sheer terror in a computer game. Also the effects of flying through the mountains in Fractalus are the best ever on an 8-bit machine. Oh, and the superior Atari version knocks spots off the C64 version.
Rates alongside Star Raiders and Dropzone in my opinion.
Kr0tki - 12/05/2005
Type "AUTHOR" on level select screen to reveal credits.
kris - 28/09/2004
A fantastic game with beautiful graphics. I will primarily remember the heart-stopping fear that I felt the first time I encountered an alien in front of my ship. Quite possibly the single scariest moment ever created in a computer game of that era.


Rescue on Fractalus! atari screenshot
Rescue on Fractalus! atari screenshot
Rescue on Fractalus! atari screenshot
Rescue on Fractalus! atari screenshot
Rescue on Fractalus! atari screenshot
Rescue on Fractalus! atari screenshot
Rescue on Fractalus! atari screenshot
Rescue on Fractalus! atari screenshot


GenreSimulation - MiscellaneousYear1987
LanguageMachine LanguagePublisherAtari
ControlsJoystick, KeyboardDeveloperLucasfilm Games
Players1, DemoCountryUSA

Fox, David / Carpenter, Loren

Graphic Artist(s)

Kellner, Charlie / Winnick, Gary
St. Louis, James / Crockford, Douglas

Medium Cartridge

Kellner, Charlie / Langston, Peter

Cover Artist(s)SerialRX8063
Dumpdownload atari Rescue on Fractalus! Download

Additional Comments

Other versions with the same title:

Activision UK, Epyx.

There are thirty levels you can choose from in this version instead of sixteen in the original release.

Behind Jaggi Lines! was the working title of this game.

Type 'AUTHOR' on the selection screen to see programming credits. It reads “BY D.FOX L.CARPENTER C.KELLNER P.LANGSTON”.


Rescue on Fractalus! Atari cartridge scan Rescue on Fractalus! Atari cartridge scan Rescue on Fractalus! Atari cartridge scan





Lucas / Atari
from Electronic Games (September 1984)

Rescue on Fractalus! Article Rescue on Fractalus! Article Rescue on Fractalus! Article Rescue on Fractalus! Article Rescue on Fractalus! Article


Rescue on Fractalus! Article Rescue on Fractalus! Article Rescue on Fractalus! Article Rescue on Fractalus! Article Rescue on Fractalus! Article

Easter Eggs

Typing AUTHOR on the title screen reveals credits!

Book / Magazine Reviews

 Atari User · July, 1988

The Earth forces are at war with the evil Jaggies who have seized control of Fractalus, the most inhospitable planet this side of the Kalamar system. Up in space, the brave Ethercorp pilots have been holding their own, but down on the planet's surface things are looking a little desperate. The Jaggies have built defensive gun emplacements all over the craggy mountain tops and canyons and... [more]

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