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Moon Buggy

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Released: 1985

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Commodore 16/Plus4

Publisher: Anirog

Developer: Jef Gamon

Submitted by: Barry Lendrum

Based upon the classic 1982 arcade game Moon Patrol by Irem, it soon quickly arrived to our system a mere three years later near as soon after we tore off the festive wrapper off our good old grey breadbin on 1984 Christmas morning.

As the basic plot goes, you are a sector commander in charge of the moon base defences. On a routine patrol you have suddenly come under attack by alien forces supposedly operating from the huge star cruiser stationed just beyond the horizon (according to the inlay blurb). Your mission is to get from point A to point Z. Your All Terrain Moon Buggy (or A.T.M.B as the military prefers to call it) is fitted with high speed vertical laser missiles to blast the aliens back from wence they came. Also fitted is a tank cannon in front of the vehicle capable of blasting away rocks and enemy tanks which inevitably gets in your way.

There are also many craters and mines to avoid. Fortunately your A.T… ah sod it, your moon buggy is capable of jumping over these extremely hazardous obstacles (maybe they installed shortburst thrusters underneath). It can also accelerate and decelerate which you may find you’ll be doing quite often.

All the alphabetical checkpoints in the game which you see at the top of the screen altogether are divided into 5 zones. After every zone is completed, the landscape changes colour and you gain an extra life before continuing on. If a stray bullet hits you or if you crash into a rock, a mine or a tank or fall down a crater you will inevitably lose one of your lives. Luckily you have 5 lives at the start of the game, that’s plenty enough. If you manage to clear all 5 zones then you will recieve a 2500 point bonus, then the game repeats itself back from the start for you to go plough through again and for your hi-score.

That’s the game. On with the review. This is an arcade game which I have very fond memories of playing whilst on holiday as a 10yr old child. Whilst obviously the C16 will not match the arcade original in cosmetics, it matches up pretty well in the gameplay.

Some of the background graphics, partiicularly the rocky surface many may recognise from Skramble also by Anirog. I’m guessing that some of the same code was used as Jef Gamond programmed both games. The mountainous scenery in the background uses some parallax scrolling with twinkly stars above them which looks quite impressive for its time. The aliens look half decent too and with the cool way they materialise themselves. The explosions are also particularly nice. The rocks and mines though are just basic rocks and mines, they look OK if nothing special. Everything looks nice and colourful. But the moon buggy itself though looks quite bland where it’s only made up of one dull grey colour, yuk. But at least that the low gravitational jumping is effective. The horizontal scrolling is pretty smooth too.

The sounds are really just your usual standard basic affair. Nice enough explosion FX and stuff, but the moon buggy firing sounds are a tad grating and tinny which you may find turning the volume down a bit for.

Playing the game itself is a doddle, but it’s also a fair decent challenge. The controls are good and extremely responsive whenever you need to speed up or slow down to avoid the enemy fire. The collision detection is pretty much accurate too. The buggy’s vertical bullets are extremely rapid, but for horizontal fire there’s only one bullet at a time on screen here I’m afraid which also may take a couple of clicks to release the next one after.

It may not take anyone too long to complete this game though, but it still pretty much remains challenging, and as it wraps itself back around to the start after completion, this makes for a perfect game for hi-scores.

There are few arcade ports on our system, and much of them aren’t really very good apart from a few exceptions. Fortunately this is one of those few exceptions, and I would easily tuck it in somewhere in the top 5 of my arcade conversion list. So if you’re a fan of the arcade, or even just a general fan of vintage shmups then give this one a play now.

You can watch the full longplay video HERE!