Review: Lunar Lander Beyond brings a neat twist to the formula

lunar lander beyond

Lunar Lander was originally released in arcades back in 1979 by Atari. Over the years, it’s gotten quite a few ports and sequels, all of which retaining the first game’s core gameplay. It was impressive for its time due to how realistically it depicted the moon’s gravity, especially when compared to the actual real life recordings made a decade before by Buzz Aldrin and co. Atari’s own Asteroids also played up to that particular angle, with a similar look that employed vectors as the way to draw its graphics.

Now, close to 50 years later, Lunar Lander Beyond is the newest iteration that does the original justice and changes things up somewhat by adding power-ups and extra little twists in the form of quirks that can be equipped between missions. The gist remains the same, as you are tasked with landing a ship in a variety of different spots, but how you get to them changes as more obstacles stand in your way, and what abilities you have at your disposal.

Also, there’s now a story tied to the progression as you play the role of a captain commandeering a ship carrying supplies for an outer world consortium. At the outset, the writing is funny and full of sarcasm, really playing up the rampant capitalism angle as it clearly puts you as a cog in the corporate machine, where the bottom line is all that matters. While not exactly new, it’s an entertaining approach and for an arcade-like game with little to nothing in the way of a narrative, it works well enough.

The first of your new powers, the stabilizer, could be considered something of a cheat, as it evens out your position, cancels your movement and angles the ship for a perfect parallel landing. In the olden days, if you applied too much acceleration, the momentum was so strong that it was hard to control your movement, and the technique of feathering the throttle was absolutely paramount in order to keep you in one piece. With this power, though, it’s much more manageable, even though it makes it all much easier. Then again, if you are a purist, you can absolutely play it like you would in the first run of Lunar Lander

lunar lander beyond
Talk about intense!

And that’s pretty much the truth about every other ability that you unlock as you play through this game, which is both bold and a little amateurish when it comes to game design, because it can potentially neglect the developer’s intention of implementing more tools to the basic gameplay.

On the other hand, let’s face it: there isn’t much to the base concept of playing this sort of game. You can put as many hills, declines and other manner of elements in the way of your landing, the objective remains the same, and by mastering the only real button and knowing when to apply more or less of it in conjunction with the direction in which your ship is going you can basically face any challenge the game might throw your way. 

Having new twists like its bonus objectives, more than one pilot and ship type to choose from and changing the climate conditions, along with offering new and insidiously more and more harsh locations to fly in, help make it feel like much more of a game than the (nowadays) barebones simulation that the original arcade version so expectedly provided. It’s little things like these that elevate it from a mere rehash and form a worthwhile follow-up instead. 

lunar lander beyond
Those damn dirty apes!!

Lunar Lander Beyond isn’t anything out of this world nor will it blow you away with revolutionary ideas, but it strives to provide new ways of varying what the original did in fun ways. Its visuals and presentation don’t hurt the overall package either, with simple yet effective cartoon-like graphics and even a fully animated opening to boot. It’s all enough to warrant checking it out if you were ever a fan of the arcade classic. If you, however, had yet to touch base with that game, it’s also a neat introduction to what made the first Lunar Lander such a hit back in the day. 

As with Atari’s previous revivals and reinventions like Mr Run and Jump and Haunted House, this is a game that elevates the ideas that made the company’s releases in the 1970s and 1980s so beloved and looked back upon so nostalgically while introducing new ideas that don’t necessarily change it up, but add to what made them so entertaining in the first place. Lunar Lander Beyond is undoubtedly a safe bet, but one that makes sense in keeping the brand alive and well and not simply cashing in on the rose-colored memories of old school players and arcade goers alike. 

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