It’s the holiday season, which means it is time to sit down and watch The Star Wars Holiday Special. It has become something of a cult classic since its one and only airing forty years ago. This made for TV masterpiece told the story of Chewbacca, his wife Mallatobuck (Malla) and his son Lumpawaroo (Lumpy). The show received a…mixed response from critics and fans. Carrie Fisher famously said that she made George Lucas give her a copy so that she would, “have something for parties…when [she] wanted everyone to leave.”
To watch it, you have to have to search it out on YouTube or own a bootlegged copy. It never received an official release, but the dedicated Star Wars fan can track it down. It’s almost as rare as Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: Ewok Adventure (also known as Revenge of the Jedi), a game which was designed for the Atari 2600 and never released. As best as anyone can tell, there’s a single cartridge in existence, a prototype which was discovered in 1997. That’s not to say the game has completely vanished. A PAL version was discovered in 2001, and an NTSC version was discovered a few years later.
The game features you as an Ewok on a hang glider. Your mission is blow up the Imperial Base on Endor. Along the way you defeat other enemies (like AT-STs and Stormtroopers) by dropping rocks on them. Depending on the difficulty setting, you destroy the Imperial base by flying to the center of it and planting explosives or by hijacking an AT-ST or Imperial Speeder and using it to enact the destruction.
Players had a limited number of rocks they could drop. Once you ran out, you had to fly low over a boulder, which would replenish their supply. In addition to enemies, you had to avoid natural obstacles like trees. You could get a boost in altitude by flying over little vortices on screen, which launched you upward.
Larry Gelberg programmed the game, and it was the supposed complexity of the controls that lead to the game never being released. According to Gelberg, “I had this artistic vision of the purity of the hang-glider controls – forward dives and speeds you up, back climbs and slows you down, and catching thermals every now and then maintained your altitude. The marketing weasels either didn’t get it or just didn’t like it. They tried time and time again to get me to put in a mode where you just go in the direction where you point the joystick. But I was young and arrogant and refused, and they ultimately killed the game.”
It’s a pity the game was never released, and it would be fantastic to see it included in something like the Atari Classics collections. Perhaps an Atari Rarities collection is needed? In the meantime, here’s a brief clip of the gameplay: