Moon Patrol
System: Atari 2600
Produced by: Atari
Model #: CX2692
Released: 1983
Players: one to two (alternating)
Controller: Joystick
Rarity:

  • NTSC version:2 - common
  • PAL version: 4 - scarce

The player pilots a "Moon Buggy" around a landscape containing land mines, craters and boulders. Your non-passive enemies include UFO's, tanks, and as the back of the box calls them, "flying land rockets."

You have to shoot the enemies, and boulders while jumping the mines and craters to reach the end of a level. Your progress is marked by a meter at the bottom of the screen. You can shoot straight up, or to the right.

The graphics are about average for a 2600 title. The background consists of a stary sky and a repeating blue mountain-scape. The ground is a solid green block Your buggy is a purple shape made up of two triangles with two little stumps for wheels. At the bottom of the screen is your score, number of lives, time, and progress meter.


"screenshot":
|-----------------------------|
| X X |
| Y |
| /\ /\ _ /\ |
|/ \__/\__/ \____/ \____/ |
| |
|_______<>______^____________|
|-----------------------------|
| 500 |
| 3<> 2:14 |
|__________====|===__________|

Going price on ebay ranges from $1.00 (just the cartridge) to $3.50 (unopened)

Moon Patrol was an old arcade game released by Irem way back in 1982. Williams distributed this title in the United States (their version was functionally identical). There was also a bootleg version of this game entitled Moon Ranger (it had alternate graphics).

The story

In Moon Patrol you drive a cartoonish moon buggy over two courses of treacherous moon terrain. While being hounded by a variety of alien craft that occupy the moon.

The game

This is a horizontal scrolling game. Your moon buggy is equipped with two guns that can fire both forward, and straight up in the air (pressing the fire button shoots both guns at the same time). You have a second button that allows your moon buggy to jump over obstacles and enemies alike. Your buggy moves forward constantly, your 2-Way joystick merely controls how fast you move forward, but there is no way to stop entirely.

The game is divided into two levels, with each of them having five checkpoints. The first level is fairly easy. with your largest challenge being the minefield area, and the spaceships that bomb out craters in front of you. The only other things you have to worry about are rocks (stationary and moving), craters, and a second type of spaceship that merely tries to shoot you.

The second level adds stationary tanks, and hovercraft that attack from behind. The hovercraft are simple to defeat, just jump over them when they charge. The tanks are more difficult as they tend to be positioned right after jumps (making them harder to kill).

The game is timed between each checkpoint, and the machine compares your time to the average time taken on that machine, and awards bonus points accordingly (a new unplayed machine uses an average of 80 seconds for the first few levels, and then 100 seconds after that).

The top of the screen keeps track of your score, distance to the next checkpoint, and has several lights that warn you of nearbye danger. You can safely ignore the lights, I didn't even notice them until playing through the game several time (looking up at the top of the screen can make you lose track of the action at the bottom).

If you have ever wanted to become a true wizard at a game, without tossing your whole life away playing it, then Moon Patrol is your game. The first level is not terrible difficult, and doesn't take long to master. While the second level simply repeats forever, and it is always exactly the same. All you have to do is develop a pattern, and you can play the game for hours without dying.

The Machine

The Moon Patrol cabinet is a similar design to the one used on Joust, but with a slightly thicker control panel. This title features painted sideart (a scene showing a moon buggy being attacked, which is done in several shades of blue), and uses a horizontal monitor. The marquee shows a another moon scene (this one done up in Marvel comics syle graphics) of a yellow moon buggy attacking a hovercraft, with a purple space castle in the background. (All of those things are different colors than the ones actually in the game, they probably neglected to show the graphic artist the actual game).

The control panel uses a single 2-Way joystick which is mounted centrally, fire and jump buttons are on either side (meaning you can play this title with either hand).

Where to play

Moon Patrol was ported to several early console systems (the Atari 2600 version is quite good), and was also available for both the Apple II computer and the Commodore 64. These versions are fairly common, and easy to purchase on eBay. Or you can play the original version on your personal computer using the MAME emulator.

Buying a Moon Patrol machine for your arcade game collection may sound like a good idea at first. But you may quickly tire of playing the same two levels over and over again. You should also keep in mind that this is a rather expensive game (you may be able to buy two other games for the price of this one).

Among its other fine qualitites, Moon Patrol has one of the funkiest little tunes as its background music.
Low C, Low C, High C
Bb Bb G Bb Bb B C

(put in a 12 bar blues pattern)

This is a great little bassline for people to improvise off of. I don't know how many hundreds of times I'd play it on my tuba with or without my fellow pep band members joining in. It also makes a for good background to Blues Scale improvisation.

Remix.Overclocked.org has two decent remixes of it. The a cappella "Shanecappella VoxBeat" version probably gives the best idea of the original.

Also, the arcade game seems to be one of the first uses of parallax scrolling.

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