Starcross (video game)

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Starcross cover art
Developer(s) Infocom
Publisher(s) Infocom
Designer(s) Dave Lebling
Engine ZIL
Platform(s) Amiga, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Commodore Plus/4, MS-DOS, TRS-80, TI-99/4A
Release date(s) Release 15: September 1, 1982

Release 17: October 21, 1982

Genre(s) Interactive fiction
Mode(s) Single player
Distribution 3½" or 5¼" disk

Starcross is a 1982 interactive fiction game designed and implemented by Dave Lebling and published by Infocom. Like most Infocom titles, it was developed for many systems. It was released for DOS, as a PC Booter, Apple II, Atari ST and Atari 8-bit. It is Infocom's fifth game.

The game was Infocom's first in the science fiction genre. It takes place in the year 2186, when the player's character is a lone black hole miner exploring an asteroid belt. The player's ship, the Starcross, is fitted with a mass detector to look for "quantum black holes", which are such powerful sources of energy that one could provide a wealth of riches. When the mass detector finally discovers an anomaly, however, it isn't a black hole but something else entirely: a massive craft of unknown origin and composition.

The player must dock with the mysterious ship and gain entry to its interior. Once inside, the player discovers a wide variety of alien plant and animal species and an array of unfamiliar technology.


Before Infocom released Starcross, it released Zork III, and Deadline before that. Deadline included several physical items related to the game's theme, which Infocom referred to as feelies, and they continued the technique by providing feelies with Zork III and Starcross.

The Starcross feelies consisted of the following items:

  • Log of the M.C.S. Starcross, a whimsical journal of the player's character's experiences on the ship
  • A letter from the "Bureau of Extra-Solar Intelligence" providing advice for any encounters with alien lifeforms
  • A partial space map of charted masses, including instructions on how to use the navigation computer


The original plans for this game's feelies incorporated "Astronaut Food", which was to be a small package of something edible and presumably freeze-dried. The idea presented legal problems involving health laws, however, and was dropped. The foil-wrapped package is still depicted in a picture of materials included with the game, appearing on the back of the game box.

The first box for Starcross was a round plastic box that resembled a flying saucer disc. This proved too costly to produce and too unwieldy for store shelves and was replaced by more conventional packaging such as the "grey box" format.

Starcross was rated by Infocom as "Expert" level in difficulty. This may be largely due to the scientific orientation of many of the game's puzzles. Other early Expert-level games were Deadline and Suspended.

The game's working title was A Gift from Space.

Many elements of the game are reminiscent of the Arthur C. Clarke novel Rendezvous with Rama.

The Infocom game Planetfall is a sort of sequel, since the technology gained in "Starcross" is used in the spaceships of that game, set somewhat further in the future.


Softline in 1982 stated that "Starcross was obviously a labor of love for Lebling. It is a sheer pleasure to play".[1] Science-fiction writer Jerry Pournelle wrote in BYTE in 1983 that he preferred Zork to Starcross, but "a number of science-fiction fans like it very much".[2] Ahoy! wrote in 1984 that "Starcross is a winner ... can heartily recommend" it. The magazine warned that its documentation provided very little information about the game but added that it had "some of the best puzzles I've ever seen in an adventure game", predicting that the red docking port "is destined to be a classic".[3]


The challenge was issued eons ago from light years away. And only you can meet it.

Rendezvous with an alien vessel.


  1. ^ Durkee, David; Adams, Roe (1982-11). "Starcross". Softline. p. 20. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  2. ^ Pournelle, Jerry (June 1983). "Zenith Z-100, Epson QX-10, Software Licensing, and the Software Piracy Problem". BYTE. p. 411. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Herring, Richard (1984-06). "Starcross". Ahoy. pp. 89–90. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 

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