[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Halley Project

August 5th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

The Halley Project Atari 800 8-bit computer Ad - 1985“Just tell your friends you’re going on a very long trip.”

As a kid, The Halley Project blew my mind.

I remember flying through the solar system, first person, in what seemed like a real-time simulation of space flight. All the distances between and positions of the planets were accurate, and you could visit each one by traversing the vast gulfs between them. It was one of the most awe-inspiring games on the Atari 800.

I haven’t sat down and played The Halley Project in at least a decade, so I’m kinda fuzzy about the point of the game. I believe you’re trying to track down Halley’s Comet. On the way, I think you have to make stops at each of the planets in our real solar system. And, if I’m not mistaken, there’s something special about the comet itself (once you actually find it) that I won’t spoil for you guys.

The real Halley’s Comet made a famous fly-by of our planet back in 1986. I still have vague memories of being awakened in the middle of the night when I was 5 so our family could drive out to a local school field and catch of glimpse of the comet. I remember seeing a fuzzy dot, perhaps through binoculars or a simple telescope. That real life celestial visit inspired a sort of frenzy in the media and popular consciousness here in the US, and I’m guessing this game played off of that.

I know I could look up the real plot / purpose / gameplay of The Halley Project online, complete with screenshots and analysis, but I don’t want to. My warm memories are good enough.

[ From Compute!, November 1985, p.13 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you see Halley’s Comet in 1986? Tell us about it.

6 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Halley Project”

  1. Aaron Says:

    I was 7/8 when Halley’s Comet last zipped by us. My dad took us out to see it at 3am on a Sunday morning. It was the earliest I had ever gotten up (at least that I could remember). We didn’t see it that morning but we got a picture of it. I remember thinking that I wanted to live long enough to have another chance to see it again when it came back. Take my kid(s)/grandkid(s) to go see it.

  2. Lawrence Says:

    I’ve never seen the comet nor played the game unfortunately as I was always an IBM PC-compatible person. However, I would have loved to have played the game as a kid. I find it pretty sad that the space and flight sim genres are all but dead these days, bar a couple of indie games. Would love to see a revival!

    Also, rather depressingly I’ll be in my late 70s, if I live that long, when the comet next appears.

    Somewhat off-topic – Mindscape is a real blast from the past. They made / published so many great games over the years! Have you ever considered doing a piece on them?

  3. Matt Says:

    I was 12 and we all went out and saw it. It seems like everything that year had to do with it-Mark Twain resurgence, etc. I still have the Matchbox Halley’s Comet special edition car I got then.

  4. John Says:

    I was 16 – But I don’t remember much more than a fuzzy dot either. I’ve had a couple of Mindscape games for my C64/C128. I always thought they were cool. I may have to try and track down The Halley Project for my Commodore.

  5. technotreegrass Says:

    I was an infant, but the game sounds absolutely amazing.

  6. kartmaster Says:

    I would have been 4 years old then, and I don’t have any recollection of my parents taking me anywhere to see Halley’s Comet.

    I do remember Hale Bopp in the 90’s though. I remember that vividly and am kinda excited to see how this comet that should pass through in the fall shows up.

    I didn’t play that game, but it sounds like of like the “Orbiter” space sim that has been around for a while. I remember firing my rockets in that game and increasing simulation speed to 10,000x so I could visit the outer planets. Getting into a stable orbit was tricky, but I actually pulled it off a few times.

Leave a Reply