Irem’s Moon Patrol is a simple game across two auto-scrolling levels. Control is limited to adjusting the speed of your vehicle (forwards to accelerate, back to decelerate) as it trundles along the surprisingly colourful surface of the moon. There are two cannons that fire upon pressing this button (one vertical, one horizontal), but shots cannot be angled. It’s basic stuff, but it’s also a lot of fun.
Arcade Archives Moon Patrol takes this game and adds the usual HAMSTER options and game modes. Whichever one you’re playing, you’ll find that despite the simplicity, there’s quite a bit to do as you go looking for more points or simply hope to survive that bit longer. Rocks can be blasted away or you can choose to hop over them. Craters have to be jumped over as do the landmines that are later introduced. In some cases, it’s a simple matter of a well-timed button-press, but other times you’ll be adjusting your speed to clear a crater or pulling back when you clear one landmine so you don’t land on another one.
Speed adjustment is also used to better position yourself to shoot the various different enemies and intercept (or avoid) their shots. There are a few different types to deal with, attacking from different directions, with the bombers creating fresh craters for you to leap over. Another foe pulls up behind you before suddenly charging at you. Combined with the different jumps, there’s quite a bit of variety to be had.
The audio-visual presentation is simple as you’d expect from a 1982 release, with flat bright colours, but there’s some good touches such as parallax and uneven terrain, as well as some scenic variety with background mountains and buildings. The simple sound effects that include a bouncy jump are nothing remarkable, but they work well as does the cheery tune that plays.
Each level is split into 26 sections (represented by a letter of the alphabet). These serve as checkpoints if you lose a life and should you reach certain points (indicated by the onscreen progress bar) within a certain time you’ll be rewarded with some bonus points. Each section serves as a mini challenge with those on the first level not being too tricky once you know what to expect - although it is very easy to lose track of the ground-based dangers should you be concentrating on the aerial ones. The second stage is tougher, providing more opportunity for things to go horribly wrong and requiring quick thinking if you are to make it through.
As usual you are armed with unlimited continues in the main arcade mode, which allows you to force your way through the game, although there is a score-reset upon continuing so this is simply a way to see all the sights rather than rack up a ridiculous score. Upon clearing the second level, you get to play it again and this loop continues until all your lives are gone.
Initially, you may be interested in simply surviving the levels, but the replay value comes from trying to improve your score. The usual one-credit Hi score mode is available as is the Caravan mode which also limits you to five minutes of playtime. As always online leaderboards are included for you to try and move up and there are some impressive scores on display including from the fine folk over in the Arcade SHMUP High Score thread.
The regular arcade mode also has an online leaderboard, but it’s a mode that works better as a training one. Not only can you increase your lives from three to five, but there’s an option to enable you to pick your starting point – a good way to focus on a section that is giving you trouble in the other modes. Alternating two-player mode is also available here should you wish a more local challenge, rather than compete against scores from around the globe.
Initially seeming quite basic, Arcade Archives Moon Patrol becomes a lot of fun thanks to the various dangers encountered and discovering the different ways the limited controls can be utilised to clear these dangers. Working through the different sections is enjoyable and it is thrilling to clear a troublesome one. If simply getting through the two levels is your goal, there's not a lot of replay value here, but Moon Patrol is of course a Hi Score chaser. Finding new ways to shoot attackers you'd previously avoided or managing a section quicker for that points bonus leads to enjoyable playthroughs as you look to improve your scoring.