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Moonlander

Moon Lander cover

OriginsEdit

Lunar Lander was Atari's first vector graphic arcade game, which required the player to choose an area to land their ship on a lunar surface while contending with gravity and fuel all the while. The game was not a big hit, although the later Asteroids was, which many Lunar Lander cabinets were converted to Asteroids machines once that game fared way better in the arcade.

Moon Lander was inspired by Lunar Lander, although the player had to contend with changing gravity and landscapes, wind, and troublesome satellites as well in the later levels. The game featured cinematics of the player's ship lifting off after a successful landing and has an ending, rather than Lunar Lander ending only once the player would eventually run out of quarters (to keep on adding fuel to their ship) or they just flat-out ran out of fuel during a game without adding any more coins to replenish their ship's fuel tank. The game was developed by Clay Cowgill and Chris Salomon and published by Vectrex carts and Classic Game Creations. It is believed to have been released in 1997.

GameplayEdit

It is the player's duty to get their ship home to Earth, which is accomplished by making a safe landing on each moon. The player has to contend with their ship's fuel level, gravity (or lack thereof), wind factor, landscapes and/or even satellites in the later levels in order to land.

With the arrival at each new moon, the lander begins at the top of the screen, which needs to be guided to a safe landing spot (defined by bonus multipliers, such as "1X" or "5X", for example). Usually a planet's gravity will start the ship's descent, which the player must apply thrusters to counter the gravity for a safe landing, or thrust towards the landscape for several of the levels that have negative gravity (i. e. if the player doesn't apply thrust, their lander will start heading up away from the moon's surface).

Once the player is on a safe landing trajectory, an indicator that they are on the right path usually appears briefly (saying "OK!" on the screen, along with being marked by two musical notes), although that does not always mean the player can just let their lander fall to the surface as it is; land too hard, and they will lose a lander, and if the player runs out of landers the game ends.

There are also other onscreen indicators to help the player, such as if the moon the player is currently on has a wind factor (shown by a flag facing whatever direction the wind is blowing) and there is a fuel gauge as well. Also when the player engages the pause feature, this screen has additional information as to the game's current level number, gravity and wind ratings, and if there is a satellite present during the level.

Satellites will also start appearing after the player has cleared several levels; a regular satellite will just bob up and down over a lunar surface, although a Killer Satellite will home in on the player. Colliding with a satellite will also destroy a lander.

A bonus lander is awarded with every five safe landings.

Cheat codesEdit

Multiple extra livesEdit

During a level, pressing pause, then buttons one and two and holding down button four on the controller will cause the lives indicator to increase.

Easier levelEdit

After the player has used the extra lives cheat, pressing pause during a level and holding down buttons one and two, then four on the controller will lower either the gravity pull and/or wind. (Note: the gravity has to be of at least a two rating in order for it to be lowered.)

Fun factsEdit

  • Whenever the player makes a successful landing, a few bars of "The Star Spangled Banner" will play, and much more of the piece will play if the player can make it through all 31 levels and beat the game. Some of "Auld Lang Syne" will play at the "game over" screen as well.
  • All of the moons have a name, some of which are named after various Vectrex and/or video game alumni, such as "Outer Dondzila" (in regards to Vectrex homebrewer guru John Dondzila, plus he also gets a shout-out as "John D" if the player makes it to the end on that credits screen) and "Spike the P" (retro gamer Spike the Percussionist). Others can be humorous, such as "Haagen Daze", presumably a pun of the Haagen-Dazs ice cream brand.
  • During the game's attract mode, there is speech synthesis of a brief countdown, along with showing all the objects of the game (landing bonus multipliers, satellites) and programmer credits.
  • Individual Vectrexes can have slightly different displays, which is why sometimes the moon lander can appear to dip below a lunar surface without being destroyed.
  • Moon Lander was originally available through the Vectrex carts website, then later on the Classic Game Creations site once John Dondzila took over the site from Mark Shaker.

LinksEdit

  • Clay Cowgill's site
  • Review (8/10) and a music soundclip from the game can be heard at vectrex.nl

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