Joe Starman On Planet X
for PC (DOS)

Company: SpareWizard
Year: 2018
Genre: RPG
Theme: Myths and Mythology / Unfinished
Language: English
Licence: Freeware
Views: 574
Review by LostInSpace (2023-12-09)

Curious about new homebrew games for DOS computers, I browsed through various game jams on the website. Mainly because of the promising screenshots, I got stuck on a game called Joe Starman on Planet X. As it turned out, the code is written in QuickBasic and can be viewed openly via an editor. In terms of structure and style, Starman is modelled on the typical top-down view of early role-playing games such as Wasteland, in which the hero always remains in the centre of the screen and the screen section is recalculated at every step.

A short story on the website introduces Joe Starman as an explorer of the cosmos. Who would have thought so in view of that name! Since his spaceship has crashed on the unknown Planet X, he sets off in search of the wreckage and hopes for a miraculous repair. In a nicely illustrated archaic and wild landscape, you only encounter a total of 3 NPCs who are more or less helpful in showing you the way. A pyramid can also be entered there. A nerdy allusion to the splash screen from the well-known retro game Planet-X.

After a speed-run-like time of just 5 minutes, my spaceship is ready for use again. One reason for this is that a large part of the presumably planned expansion has not yet been implemented. The submission time for the “Old Software Jam 2018” was 10 minutes before the deadline. And secondly, the lack of more advanced interaction with the NPCs, such as talking or fighting. A role-playable character development system is also neither useful nor implemented in the short playing time. All text passages with dialogues and hints are triggered by simply entering certain points, which means that an extremely quickly found path on the map leads to the goal.

A poetic hint to the goal

In the DosBox, the game runs completely smoothly and without bugs and is certainly a promising approach in its category as a QuickBasic role-playing game with a lot of potential for further development. However, the programmer has added virtually no further releases to his Github profile in recent years. Joe Starman On Planet X therefore remains more of a splinter than a whole rock that it could have become.

A closer look at the source code reveals an innovative idea that almost makes the game look like a proof of concept. The graphics for the map were pre-calculated with Python scripts in order to make use of a quite short QuickBasic routine, which calculates the player’s movements in a very resource-efficient way. An interesting application of modern methods, which could perhaps be a welcome invitation to experiment for one or the other (amateur) coder.

Comments (1) [Post comment]

Discovering foreign worlds or even distant planets has always been the kind of fascination that can be simulated especially by computer games in such an enjoyable way. On closer inspection, however, the programming of such worlds alone is worth exploring. The DOS game Joe Starman On Planet X is a short tour through some role-playing fantasy and – as it is open source – also allows a look at the QuickBasic code in the background.