The Game: Driving an agile, armed moon buggy across the lunar surface, you must jump over craters and land mines, shoot large boulders (some occasionally mobile) out of your way, and try not to be on the receiving end of hostile fire from alien ships that try to strafe you. Some of the ships, which look very suspiciously like the triangle-of-spheres enemy ships from Gyruss, can even bomb the moon and make new craters for you to jump over – which may put you right into their line of fire.
Later on, you also get to blast away tanks and dodge pesky jet cars which “tailgate” and then try to ram you. (Atari, 1983)
Memories: This was a game that I played the hell out of as a kid – I’m stunned that all the bits didn’t fall out of the cartridge from repeated use. Granted, Moon Patrol in the arcade was a feast for the eyes and ears, and it’d be foolish to expect none of that to be lost in the translation to a far simpler hardware platform like the Atari 2600. But what’s surprising is how much of the game actually survived the transition.
To compensate for the lack of the two-button control panel of the arcade, Atari wisely simplified things: the action button fires, while pushing the joystick up makes the moon buggy jump. It’s a nice – to say nothing of logical – compromise, and one that makes Moon Patrol a joy to play. Another nice element of the original is the music – surprisingly faithful to the original, if simplified out of necessity. A bit of graphical flicker kicks in where there are too many enemies and obstacles on the screen at once, but it’s short-lived when it happens.
It all adds up to one of the 2600’s better arcade translations.