Moon Patrol

Atari 2600

Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 8

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Infectious is the only word in the English dictionary to describe the soundtrack to William's classic "Moon Patrol." As a matter of fact, it's stuck in my head as right this, distracting me from the task at hand. Thankfully, those who converted this one to the 2600 obviously felt the same way. Oh, it plays pretty well too.

Part "Space Invaders," another part platformer, this odd mix comes together beautifully. Pitfalls and piles of rocks require precise navigation in order to avoid the inevitable mishap, but that's only the beginning. A few screens into the game, the moon's inhabitants come out to play, raining down firepower onto the player-controlled vehicle. Thankfully, that little orange button fires burning hell right back at them, not to mention directly in front of you as well to clear any obstacles that may get into the way.

Almost the entire game is based on memorization. The space-based landscape never changes (unless one of the aliens decides to do it for you) so it's imperative to watch where you're going while playing. It can only help when the likely billion dollar spacecraft gets a second chance. Only the extraterrestrials alter their movements to avoid being brutally gunned down from the invading ground forces.

The wonderfully conceived limitations are what make "Moon Patrol" a classic. Speed up, speed down, shoot, and jump are the extent of the controls. Every time that purple space buggy wipes out, it's your fault. You know it too. It's inherently frustrating, but for some reason, the cart remains in the console while you give it another shot. This is more proof a classic is in your possession.

A reasonable facsimile of the arcade game, the 2600 port actually loses very little visually. The parallax scrolling from the arcade game (the first game to use it) is missing, but the war torn enemies look almost exactly like they did inside the full-size cabinet. The amount of sprites on screen at once is pretty impressive as well, amazingly avoiding any flicker or break-up.

But even to this day, it's the sound that makes "Moon Patrol." The sound effects just plop you right into an early 80's arcade. You almost wish a hundred screens could surround you at once, simulating the unforgettable era. It's something that the largest orchestras and digital sound could never reproduce. Then of course, we have the music that has to be one of the great video game anthems of all time. Instantly catchy, the 2600's meager sound chip pulls off double duty and flawlessly replicates one of gaming's greatest.

Why do we enjoy being frustrated? This is a game that is flat out mean, but yet we continue to punish ourselves, swearing (literally) to get past the next rock pile/hole/land mine combination that's already taken three perfectly good lives. There's no need for explanation. It's gotta be the music.


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Last updated: Saturday, September 25, 2004 03:19 PM