Join me for another stroll down Nostalgia Lane. This time we’ll set the time machine for 1983. Ronald Reagan had proposed SDI, or “Star Wars”, and Sally Ride became the first female astronaut. And at the same time, a young Dangerboy was exploring the moon in an armed moonbuggy in the game Moon Patrol, safe at his Atari 2600.
The premise of Moon Patrol was simple. Your buggy had to patrol the moon. Pretty easy, yeah? But wait…there were craters to jump, mounds of deadly rock to crash into, and…land mines? Dammit, who let Harrison Schmitt have land mines??? As if all that weren’t bad enough, alien spacecraft would drop bombs on you to prevent your progress.
Apollo mission gone horribly wrong...
Fortunately, the moonbuggy was armed with lasers that would shoot both foreward and straight up, so you could wiggle and jiggle and shoot and frag some of those alien obstacles. It also had the ability to jump, soaring over craters like a goddamn moon eagle.
I belieeeeeve I can fly...
The concept worked, but was a bit weak on visuals. The hot pink moon buggy, for those lucky enough to have a color TV, was like an accessory for Spaced Out Barbie. The moon’s depiction as both perfectly flat between craters and colored avocado-poo green with blue mountains left me wondering what exactly the designers were thinking. Whose moon was this supposed to be? The Koozbanians?
I’ll admit it, Moon Patrol frustrated 9 year old me to no end. It wasn’t so much a course of reaction as memorization, and I didn’t really pick up on that fact for months. I’ve always preferred games that involved reacting and thinking, rather than memorizing when to hit what button. To this day, I despise Sonic the Hedgehog for the same reason. In Moon Patrol, I just couldn’t get some of the timing down, especially later in the game when triple mounds, double craters and a land mine all lined up perfectly to inspire the patented controller fling. (Long before Wii, we’d do that shit on purpose, kids.)
One of the things that Moon Patrol really had going for it was the soundtrack, such as it was. For a 2600 game, this thing had a perfect earbug for its background music. I still find myself humming it occasionally, nearly 20 years later, along with MC Hammer and ABBA. I know earbugs, and you can’t touch this, you dancing queen.
As you can see, this game was an aneurism waiting in the wings. Still, it was a decent side-scroller for its day. It met the Young Danger litmus test of being able to pretend I was really there ™, and I made many small steps for man, but giant leaps over land mines on many Saturday mornings. It was just one more trip that I could launch from my own little pad on Nostalgia Street.
EDIT: Found a great site where you can actually play this game in your browser...CLICKY!