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MoonSweeper

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Released: 1983

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Atari 2600

Publisher: Imagic

Developer: Imagic

Submitted by: John Delaney

How long does it take to cook up a quick, painless little story? In MoonSweeper, you rescue some astro-miners from various moons. That's it. Sounds like something the printer thought up when he realised he didn't have enough black ink for the entire back of the box. So, if it's ok by everyone, I'm going to apply a little narrative to what is, actually, a far busier game than meets the eye.

You play a starship pilot who's picked up a distress signal from one of Earth's mining colonies. Aliens have attacked and are intent on wiping the colony out, even going so far as to destabilise the sun to destroy the entire system!

The game is played in two halves. The first sees you sweeping through the debris of the system, dodging comets and single white pixels caught in the star's gravity and which now rain in from either side of the screen. Ahead lies the sun itself, intermittently spitting more comets at you. Occasionally, a moon will shoot by in the debris; if your reflexes are jizzed up, you can try to ram your ship into it.

What follows is an impressive little animation as you descend to skim the surface of the moon. Collect six miners and then hold a steady course through three or four launch claws to escape the moon's gravity. The aliens, displaying the sort of  genocidal determination that only proper aliens can muster, will continue to hinder you by deploying interceptor craft. These agile saucers will zip all around the screen, either trying to ram you or shoot you with those annoying white pixels again.You can shoot them down, but they'll just send more. Just what did the miners discover here that has the aliens so ticked off? The gates to Hell?  Atari's ET cartridge dump?

While the bit set out in space is extremely annoying, the surface sections are a blast. Unfortunately, MoonSweeper displays the kind of collision detection that will have you writing to your local MP in disgust. You'll get used to firing at and dodging everything, just in case.