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Moon Patrol


Atari 2600

1983 Williams



This game was always one of my favorites back in the day. Moon Patrol is one of those games that anyone can pick up in a few minutes but has enough depth to keep you entertained all the way through. The game is a classic shooter where waves of alien spaceships attack in predictable patterns but with added obstacles like rocks, pits, and cannons on the ground to contend with. Your little moon buggy can shoot in two directions and make two types of jumps, a long jump and a bunnyhop. Some rocks you can shoot, some you have to bunnyhop over, some pits need the long jump, some the short jump. The final factor is you can move fowards or back a bit but can't stop the car, so you have a limited time to decide how to get past a particular obstacle. The game then becomes all about memorizing when to jump, when to shoot, where to move, what type of jump is needed, etc.

The arcade managed to steal quarters with addictive gameplay and pretty amazing graphics (Moon Patrol was one of the first games to feature parallax scrolling, something you don't see consistantly in home consoles until the 16 bit era.) This game was originally developed by Irem, who went on to make the R-Type series of shooters.

While the graphics aren't much to write home about (the sprites are all one color,) all of the playability made it's way into the 2600 cart. The different obstacle types are there although the one button joystick makes for some funkiness in the control department. The car fires in both directions at the same time with the fire button (I belive the arcade game had two fire buttons for this, but my memory of it is somewhat hazy. It has been twenty years since I've played the arcade version...) Jumping is a little freaky as you have to press up to jump up and diagnal to make a long jump, leading to the situation of you jumping by mistake as you try to dodge enemy fire. And it just so happens that the rocks and pits are placed in such a way that there's no room to screw up at any time. But the controls aren't too weird that anyone couldn't get them down without a little preseverence. I guess I'm just used to controllers with more than one button on them.

The graphics look like crap when they stand still. Everything is animated decently, the little car bobs up and down as it drives, the treads or wheels or whatever animate smoothly, little alien spaceships explode with a satisfying 'Skuggh!" And this game even has parallax scrolling going on with the mountains, pretty amazing for the 2600.

A very faithful translation, a good game that shows what the system was able to do in capable hands.

Graphics: Parallax scrolling on the 2600. Incredible.

Sound: There is background music in the game. Even more incredible.

Gameplay: Sweet, like cherries.

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