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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trip Down Nostalgia Street, vol 5

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!


  1. Look at those graphics!! Haha. We've come along way.

  2. We had Mattel's Intellivision. Wow!! Was that system the greatest!
    Then, I watched my son play Call of Duty Black Ops on his XBox 360.
    I'm old...very old.

  3. What was Regan like? Are you disappointed by the lack of hover crafts? Was gas really cheap? What was it like when people smoked on planes? Boy, I bet Communism sure was a drag.

  4. Now I know why I never played those games. And I thought it was just because I was too old.
    Like the tunes, though!

  5. @Jumble: Oh, yes we have. I was playing Arkham Asylum the other night, and LOVING it as a work of art, not just a game.

    @Al: Ah, intellivision. They had some sweet games.

    @olga: Communism is still a drag outside of communes. :) And I'm not disappointed by the lack of hover craft so much as jetpacks. I WAS PROMISED JETPACKS.

    @Jayne: Never too old to play games, but truly, some are far less frustrating than others. FAR.

  6. Reagan was okay, if a bit daft. LOVED what he did to PATCO. Man, no hovercrafts really bum me out. Gas was a lot cheaper than it is now. I remember bitching when it went above $1.00 (Historical Note: I was at sea during the last gas crisis in 1979. Same year that Thurman Munson and John Wayne died. Probably no connection.). It was gross when people smoked on planes, although I think it's ridiculous they can't smoke in a frikkin' baseball stadium. Why don't they just make the things illegal? No Communism here-we had to wait a few decades before Communists got into government. Oh, and can you believe? Telephones had cords!
    Intellivision baseball-that game was the bomb!


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