Retro Coin Op Synopsis
“I’ll save you, Kimmy!”
As the pioneering Laserdisc game Dragon’s Lair exploded onto the arcade scene in 1983, animator/director Don Bluth, game designer Rick Dyer and video game company Cinematronics were already hard at work on a follow-up. Space Ace was a complete turnaround in setting—from swords and sorcery to spacefaring sci-fi—but the adventure, animation and humor were all instantly recognizable.
As in Dragon’s Lair, the game was actually an interactive adventure tale played out on a Laserdisc. As the story moved from scene to scene, players were forced to choose what to do next—move left, right, up, down or press the fire button. Depending on the choice, the Laserdisc skipped either to a continuation of the action or a brief, often silly death scene.
The Space Ace story centered on the title hero, a brawny blonde space jockey trying to woo a lovely redhead named Kimberly. Unfortunately, Ace’s macho image was cut down to size by a blast of blue alien Borf’s “Infanto Ray.” Ace’s body regressed into a skinny, awkward teen named Dexter, and Kimberly was kidnapped.
To get his would-be lady love back, Dexter/Ace had to wind his way into Borf’s lair, scrambling under enormous crushing machines, evading deadly alien dogfighters and hungry monsters, rollerskating over a giant maze, and much more. Every once in a while, the screen flashed red, and the word “Energize” let players know that Dexter could turn back into Ace with the touch of the fire button. Alas, the effect was temporary, and soon the scrawny Dexter would be back in charge.
Unlike Dragon’s Lair, the story in Space Ace was mostly linear, allowing Bluth and company to maintain control of the narrative ups and downs. The result was more like a true short animated film than the company’s first game, but unfortunately, that made little difference in the marketplace. The Laserdisc fad was already burning itself out by the time Space Ace made the scene, and with an overall arcade downturn in the mid-80’s, there was little room for this little sci-fi gem to make much of a splash.
The lukewarm reception was no reflection of the game itself, however, which remains a cult favorite of the Laserdisc age. Space Ace went on to a brief co-starring role on TV’s animated Saturday Supercade, and Don Bluth went on to bigger and more elaborate sci-fi animation in 2000’s Titan A.E.