|Source // Wikipedia|
Moon Patrol sounds pretty spacey, but at the same time somewhat mundane. Patrols become routine, they turn repetitive, whether you're on a different celestial body to your native world or not. Will Moon Patrol be similarly simple and samey?
Will it hell, it's got aliens and missiles and explosions and stuff.
Right from the start, Moon Patrol feels special. It might be the funky music that plays before the round gets going, so that you've a little bit of time to gather some composure, familiarise yourself with the controls, ease yourself into th-nope, you've exploded.
|Less of an explosion, more of a diagram in a biology textbook|
As a police officer of Luna City, you're trained to bunny hop your moon buggy over potholes, but don't worry - rookies always fall to the potholes at some point... You can leap over rocks as well, but you've got infinite ammunition at your disposal, just fire off a shot and watch it explode instead of you. See, you're getting the hang of things, which is good because this is Sector Nine, the locals don't mess around and you've gone and put yourself into the path of a bomb.
Very early on, I thought to myself "This game is going to require a bit of memory, isn't it? A bit of trial and error, fail so that you can learn the precise moment to fire or jump..." - I don't think that's the case at all.
It helps, failing, as you do learn from it. For example, I learned that despite there being an auto scroll in effect, I still had some degree of control over my speed, meaning I could slow down or speed up, as well as jump and fire. Suddenly, I'm not just blind firing in the hope I've got the timing right, but actually trying to dodge and position myself under an alien spaceship for a quick and efficient kill. Or that was the first plan before the next pothole appeared.
Further Fun Times
It is quite the addictive little game, Moon Patrol. At the top of the screen is a progress bar of the level, alphabetised into different zones, which offer a brief rest and a change of scenery. And points, of course. Faster drivers make for higher scores, though the 1001 book describes it as one of the slowest driving games in history. It is slow, your vehicle feels weighty, but the your lifespan goes by quicker than you think if you're caught off-guard.
Progress is progress though, fast or slow. You'll see letters whizz by the bottom of the screen as you pass them thanks to the parallax scrolling effect - debatably the first videogame to do so - meaning you've left one zone behind and are well into the next. Your progress bar map fills up, closer and closer to the next stage before you inevitably panic and blow up.
One hit will see your demise, so make the most of those extra buggies available to you.
As you can tell by the video above I wasn't playing the arcade version, but the Atari 5200 does justice to the concept. Moon Patrol gives you an odd little buggy, sluggish in places but somewhat charming in others. You're shooting things, destroying stuff, blowing up, but it's as though you're playing a bouncy little kids game, in contrast to the more 'realistic' space shooters of the arcade past.
And that's far from a bad thing. You need a change of pace sometimes, or a change of scenery at least. Moon Patrol offers a bit of both, and does so across a fair few systems, allowing you to bumble your way into the path of imminent danger any way you choose.
With blatant disregard for the law (though to be fair, I don't know what the law said at the time), Moon Patrol saw itself get bootlegged, also appearing in the arcades in the same year as Moon Ranger.
Moon Patrol, developed by Irem, first published in 1982.
Version played: Atari 5200, 1983.