The most underrated video game of all time.
Star Ship is fun, pure and simple. One thing I really got kick out of, is how Star Ship, like many of Atari's early titles, features three different programs on one cartridge: Star Ship, Warp Drive, and Lunar Lander.
These games aren't quite as simple as they first appear, either. There are certain strategies and tricks that come with achieving a high score. These games are fundamentally about high scores; if you don't care about trying to get high scores, you will probably get bored.
Also, Star Ship is a great two-player game, one player controlling the star ship as in a one-player game, and the other player controls the Space Module, which can use stealth to become invisible (but not invincible). The computer automatically reverses the players' roles after 2 min, 16 sec. Different variations can give the noticeably slower Space Module an advantage, with asteroids, starfighters, UFOs, and space robots to make life harder for the player commanding the star ship (the Space Module is unharmed by these things...a good strategy is to fly in front of one of these obstacles and lure the star ship into it).
All the games on the Star Ship cartridge can be most enjoyed on the hardest variations and difficulty settings, otherwise they're much too easy - although for the Star Ship game, I set the difficulty switch on the computer to B, the lasers instantly zap the target. Otherwise, set it to A. For one-player games, I recommend games 4,11, and 14. For two-player games, variations 7, 9, and 17 are best.
Also, the sound effects are funky, and the graphics, while blocky and rudimentary by today's standards, are cool and give that retro vibe and seem to suit the game perfectly (let's face it, Star Ship wouldn't be Star Ship if it had good graphics). But hey, if you're reading this, you probably play, or are interested in playing Atari, so you shouldn't care about graphics anyway!
The two-player games are sometimes too easy for the player doing the chasing and shooting/landing. Also, the casual player will probably be less than impressed with this title, as this cartridge needs to really be explored before its true gameplay value can be discovered.
It woulda been kinda cool if the enemy starfighters and UFOs and robots shot back at you too, but I guess in 1977 they were more worried about coming up with something different from Pong.
This game undeservedly terrible press too...don't pay attention to it until you've really explored the game, especially the two-player games, and you still decide you don't like it.
The Bottom Line
There is a lot of fun to be had playing Star Ship, Warp Drive, and Lunar Lander. The Star Ship program should be ranked with Combat and Air-Sea Battle as one of Atari's great early 2-player games (although its one-player games are fun too). There is nothing overly flashy about this game, just gameplay. This is probably the thing about this game that makes it stick to you; it's fun to play.
For readers' edification, I got my copy of Star Ship around the same time I got my Playstation 2 and Game Cube (about 2 years now), and I invariably get sick of PS2 and Gamecube games after about a month of owning them, and I rarely play them ever again. But, I play still play Star Ship regularly since I bought it. Despite its age (it's really not even that old, only 27 years), this game, like most Atari games, is truly timeless.
For an added spin on the gameplay experience, play Star Ship in the dark with Pink Floyd's "On The Run" (from Dark Side of The Moon) or "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" (from Saucerful of Secrets) playing in the background. It's something of an experience!