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Lunar Lander - The Atari Times

Lunar Lander

Atari rehash #1,000,002: was it worth it?
by Darryl Brundage

July 21, 2014
(Note: the "remake #1,000,001" is in regards to the Taco Bell Super Breakdown game review I did.)

Due to the Atari name being sold around until the end of time, it probably shouldn't have been much of a surprise for even Taco Bell in North America and Canada to do something with it (actually the current "Atari" might've struck up a deal with them) by announcing that they would be selling the classic Atari games (availability due to individual stores) of Asteroids, Super Breakout, Lunar Lander and Centipede on individual CDs for only a dollar each (or up to $1.75 in Canada) in 2010.

So how did Lunar Lander fare?

It came packaged in a slick CD sleeve with I do believe having artwork from the arcade original on it, proclaiming to be for ages three and up (yeah sure!!  A three year old being able to pilot a simulated ship!  Quite a few ADULTS can't do it!) and included an insert with an offer for discounts for games on Atari's website.

The game takes a couple of minutes to install and a nice reproduction of the original Lunar Lander arcade marquee appears at the top center of the screen with three skill levels and a Classic or Evolved playing modes to choose from.

Starting a game on the Classic mode brings up a recreation of the artwork of the control panel from the arcade cab as you decide which skill level to choose.  Once you started a game, you had to land your...lander on moon surfaces...over and over again.  Of course you had gravity and fuel to contend with, but that was pretty much the entire game there.  The game was a bit slow moving, with the landscape zooming in the closer you got to it as gravity took affect and you had to apply juuuuuust the right amount of thrust to land and earn points.

Here the gameplay's left pretty much intact, as it's still the slow strategic simulation that you'd expect.  The easier the skill level, the more fuel you start out with, but if you want a shorter game, go with one of the more difficult levels once (/if!) you get the hang of landing your lander proficiently.

And that's pretty much the Classic version there; as far as the Evolved versions go, they're given a nifty makeover, graphics-wise, as your ship this time much closer resembles an actual lander, plus the vector landscape is not only green, but the landscape is filled in too!  So that's pretty nifty-looking indeed.  There are also voice samples added in from actual moon landings as well.

I've left the graphics and sound ratings blank, since they differ a little depending on what mode you choose.  Here's how I rate them though, with the Classic and then Evolved:

Sound: 55/65

Graphics: 50/70

There wasn't much sound in the original, although it was fitting (especially since there isn't sound in space anyway, so the near-quiet of it all was actually fairly realistic...but of course you had to add SOMETHING when you didn't land correctly and you blew your ship up!).  I think the repeating samples in the Evolved versions get old fast though, although others might like them.  Control's pretty much perfect though, your ship responds well when you press the corresponding keys to hopefully allow NASA to breathe again as you land safely (or not if you don't!).

Unfortunately there's a bit of a glitch that hampers the gameplay mechanics, and I don't mean of the addition of docking with a ship module if you make it that far into the game.  I agree that the programmers at Legacy Engineering thought it was something nice to add that didn't screw up the feeling of the original (after all, just landing on surfaces over and over gets boring).  No, what I mean is that mechanics are changed a bit when you've picked a landing spot to go to, you're going down, and then, at times, once the landscape zooms in, the point value (whether it's 1, 3 or 5x) either changes or suddenly disappears altogether from your chosen landing spot.  Then you have to thrust back up (while wasting fuel) and try a different spot.  At first I thought I just made a mistake, but then this happened quite a lot.  However, Atari gave the guys a very fast turnaround time for the game, so I'd blame them for it, not the programmers.

An overall rating of 70% in one way sounds low, since that's near-flunking in most schools, but 70% out of 100 actually isn't bad (less than 60% is teh suck as far as games go).  It's just that there's several Atari compilations that this appears on, along with many other games too, and part of my rating is what I feel could have been done with the game with all the tons of space possible on a CD (however, I assume this is way better than the Game Boy Advance version included with the Millipede Super Breakout Lunar Lander cartridge, I never heard anything good about that one).  I know that there were certain demands that Atari and/or Taco Bell wanted and there wasn't anything that could be done with it, but with there not even being a way to pause a game that had been going on for quite some time...ouch, that's a bit of a waste if the doorbell goes off, the phone rings, or you hear something explode in the house and you have to go see what it is and lose your game.  Those who just rank this just on content as/is, though -- along with taking it's monstrously cheap and fair price of only $1 U. S. into account -- may want to raise it's overall rating by 5-10% or so.

About all that's missing is the cool clicky sounds you'd get from playing the arcade original as you turned your ship (the same type of buttons that were used for Missile Command), along with that huge, manly thrust controller that you're not going to find in any home setup, unfortunately.  That's just too macho there.  Ur ur ur ur (grunts like Tim Allen.)

Mkay... Who thought this would be popular at Taco Bell?
Lunar Lander
System: Other
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: NA%
Sound & Music Score: 65%
Gameplay Score: 70%
Control Score: 90%

Final Score: 70%

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