(Atari/Irem, 1982/1983)

In this Game of the Month here I'm looking back at one of favourite old school games. Here is the forgotten but still very fun to play late Atari 2600 game that was based on a arcade classic. Here's the amazing action game Moon Patrol on the Atari 2600 and one of the joys of starting up my old woodgrain machine up again is popping in this game for another go. So if you don't know this arcade classic this is a impressive yet quite challenging action/shooter game with it's unique 3D graphics, background music, and it's innovative game play that's still good even by today's standards. Moon Patrol excels in so many areas that it's sure to please all you diehard 2600 fans still out there!

Moon everybody!

In Moon Patrol it's your mission to guide your moon buggy across a grueling set of 5 levels, each area is filled with deadly crater pits, landmines, and evil aliens, so this isn't what you'll expect from, well, a simple Moon Patrol. Fortunately, your little Moon buggy is ready for action. You can jump, fire anti-air and ground missiles, and can change speeds at will to out avoid enemies shots or to get a good leap over giant pits. Some may even remember Moon Patrol as a Arcade game too developed by Irem (makers of R Type and Gun Force) and published by Williams in 1982.

Being a old school classic game the score is very important here and the faster you complete the level, the more bonuses points you'll be rewarded with. That doesn't mean that you should just try and rush through the game though because there are several hazards at every moment and it's not a good idea to be going full speed at a bunch of land mines. With time and skill though you'll find the bonus points come easier. There are three different difficulties to try out and you can even change the moving speeds with the Right Difficulty option.

The joystick controls are nothing to worry about here. The action button is used to shoot both anti-air and ground shots, pressing Up is to jump, Holding right is to speed up and pressing Left is to slow down. The controls are easy enough to learn but it's still have to take a bit of time to master the psychics of the jumping.

Being on the Atari 2600 does have its drawbacks. There is no longer any major detail or shading in the backgrounds, or on the characters to speak of so it's flat colours all the way. One amazing thing about these graphics though is the incredible use of parallax scrolling, you'll be lucky to see any parallax scrolling in a NES or Gameboy Color game yet here it is on a Atari 2600 game. Parallax scrolling is used to make the backgrounds move in 3D just in case you didn't know. I also prefer the new design of your Moon buggy compared to the ugly look of the arcade Moon buggy but that's just me.

Usually a Atari 2600 game doesn't have any background music so it's hard to rate the sound but Moon Patrol is one of those rare exceptions. All you have to do is just have the left difficulty switch on the A side to hear the catchy Moon Patrol theme music during game play. I also liked the many sound effects like the alien's appearance and the various explosions too.

Still one of my favorites for the 2600!

Moon Patrol is still a very challenging action game with a lot of jumping and shooting and to think that this game came before Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. I first got this game way back in 1984, a time when the whole video game industry was considered dead to many. If there were more games like Moon Patrol out there than I'm sure the big video game crash wouldn't had happened to begin with. It's one of the few Atari games that features a complete package of 3D backgrounds, game theme music, and awesome game play too. Moon Patrol is certainly one of those rare gems for the Atari 2600!


Model #2692

Moon Patrol 2600
overall rating: 86/100
Find Moon Patrol on eBay here!

For 1 or 2 players
graphics: 7/10
sound: 7/10
gameplay: 7/10
replay: 9/10

(Ryan Genno) 2003

See the other Games of the Month