A forced scrolling 2D shooting and jumping game
featuring constant action, nice variety, and parallax layered backgounds?
My kind of game! Moon Patrol seems nothing like the typical Williams
games of the day, like Defender, Stargate, or Robotron. Although Moon Patrol also contains constant action, its in a more laid-back form than in those other more frantic Williams games. Before reading my actual review and comments of the game, take a moment to soak in the absolutely gorgeous art created for the game, shown to the right! It's stunning how good it is!
In 5200 Moon Patrol, you have to put your brain and reflexes on
multi-tasking -- there's a lot to keep track of to succeed. You have to concern
yourself with (1) shooting spacecraft above you, (2)shooting/jumping over rocks on
the ground, (3) jumping over crevaces, (4) avoiding bombs from the aliens, and
(5) keeping your speed fast enough to earn end-of-level bonus points. That's
5 things you have to keep track of, and the beauty of Moon Patrol is when you
have to do them all at once! (as a side note, I think that it would've been
neat to have had to pick up fuel as well, like in River Raid and Scramble).
Alien spacecraft will play cat-and-mouse with your lunar
buggy, trying to bomb it. You have to pay special attention to one particular
craft -- its bombs create brand new crevaces in the ground, usually directly
in front of your patrol vehicle, so shoot 'em and prepare to jump!
Holy smokes! There are 3 layers of parallax backgrounds
in this game! This is something you'd never see in the 2600 version! Yes,
mountains and lunar cities scroll in the background while darker mountains
scroll more slowly in the far distance. I've always been a sucker for good
2D Parallax, maybe that's why I always was pleased by 5200 Moon Patrol's
visuals. The explosion animation is also more animated and pleasing the
unmoving, bland stuff you'd get on other early systems like the 2600.
Finally, there is a variety of stuff to deal with -- big and little rocks,
3 kinds of flying craft, alien plants with chomping mouths, land mines,
buggy-seeking rockets, crevaces, tanks, and also the terrain scrolls
upwards diagonally in some stages. The 5200 version of Moon Patrol does
justice to the original coin-op -- the Moon Patrol buggy itself looks like
an aardvark, however!
In the area of control, the 5200's twin firebuttons again
save the day -- no more pressing 'up' to jump, but instead the lower buttons
fire and the upper buttons jump. Left slows down your buggy, and right
accelerates. There's a nice conflict of speed vs safety in Moon Patrol, since you
are rewarded for speedy completion times. No controller problems exist,
except that your trigger finger & thumb may get tired.
Moon Patrol is one of the few games on the 5200 with background
music -- a catchy little riff plays, one that would really sound cool with
real instruments instead of the BOOP-BEEP tones that the 5200 offers. 5200 Moon
Patrol is a great, addictive little game, and I can't imagine owning the Atari
5200 Supersystem without owning this one! A recommended game! Oh, and check out this old advertisement for the game: