Lander is an action shooter game developed in-house at the Manchester office of Psygnosis for Microsoft Windows. It was released in Spring 1999 and published under the Psygnosis label shortly before the Manchester office was closed and the Psygnosis label was fully absorbed into Sony. Lander was inspired by the classic game Thrust (and to a lesser extent Lunar Lander), and featured similar gameplay of controlling a ship with realistic thrust and inertia, but with a new 3D game environment. Critically, the game was badly received by most critics, but had occasional highly positive reviews by those who had found the control system to be rewarding rather than frustrating.
The player takes on the role of a mercenary lander pilot, looking to make his fortune while travelling on the interplanetary cruise ship Drake's Exception while it makes a historical voyage of visiting each planet of the solar system in turn due to the rare event of all the planets aligning. As the Drakes Exception stops at each planet, the player is able to take on missions tendered by various people and organisations. These missions are delivered to the player via a series of emails. The majority of missions on offer require the player to find the entrance of an underground complex, gain entry and locate a particular object which then must be brought to the surface by the use of the ship's tractor beam. When an object is being towed, its weight and momentum directly affects the handling of the Player's ship. Coupled with the various obstacles present in most missions, such as moving machinery, defensive turrets and armed ground vehicles, making your way to safety becomes a lot more difficult especially when you factor in limited fuel and the Player's inability to drop the cargo at will and re-fuel. There is at least one occasion where is not true however, as during the 'Macbeth colony' mission there is a fuel pod in the latter stage of the level where the cargo can be placed beside it, allowing the Player to re-fuel and more importantly, bring the cargo with them from the beginning of the mission rather than leaving it and then backtracking later on.
On successful completion of the mission the player is paid and the money can be used to purchase new Landers, parts, ammo and the bare necessities such as fuel and shield recharges.
If the player performs well or performs a special action in certain missions then alternate missions are made available. It is not uncommon for players to complete the game multiple times and end up finding new missions. There are a total of 29 missions it the game (not including the two training missions) but only about 22 are played in a single run.
Although Lander had an arcade feel, controlling the ship in three axis proved quite difficult to master, often taking days for some to become confident and competent. The default control system relied upon mouse movement to control tilt and roll, whilst the keyboard controlled the yaw. Lander's input system does have a degree of flexibility, allowing other input devices such as an analogue joystick and even allows for the use of an analogue throttle to control the ship's thrust, allowing for a much finer control of the craft to the point of being able to hover on the spot and fly in straight lines in directions other than up and down.
Due to this unique control system and unlike the earlier games it was inspired by, Lander was never particularly popular outside of a small loyal fan base.
Lander was the first Psygnosis game to be released on the DVD format, making it the first game in the UK to come out on the new medium[. The game's soundtrack, consisting of 12 audio tracks, was released in 5.1 surround sound. ]
An R.I.P. note and well-wishings from the development team to the rest of the closed studio can be found in the credits at the end of the demo, in the full game's credits FMV sequence and in the 'credits' option from the main menu.