A Fond Farewell to “Moon Patrol: The Milky Way Chronicles” (Intellivision Amico, 80s August Special)
Welcome back to 80s August, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of the greatest decade since “Big Maps” started their coverup of our true, flat Earth.
Today we’re going to take a bittersweet look back at Moon Patrol: The Milky Way Chronicles, a game developed by Wasted Studios which was in-development for the ill-fated Intellivision Amico.
As many have already heard, the Intellivision Amico console looks to be all but officially shelved. The console was not only designed to reinvigorate the concept of “couch/local multiplayer”, but it promised several new installments from classic series, such as Breakout, Earthworm Jim, and Night Stalker. Among these was Moon Patrol: The Milky Way Chronicles, a sequel/reboot of the original Moon Patrol arcade game developed by Irem and released in 1982.
I’m an old guy, and while I was alive in 1982, I wasn’t old enough to really experience the arcade scene at the time. However, a local skating rink (owned by the family of my childhood crush) had a Moon Patrol machine in their arcade next to the skating floor. I wasn’t much of a roller skater, so I spent a lot of time bouncing between three games there, Dead Angle, Choplifter, and of course, Moon Patrol.
The original game was a forerunner to modern “endless runners”, where players control a purple, six-wheeled space vehicle that can jump over and blast enemies and obstacles that get in your way.
Fast-forward a few decades, and Moon Patrol has become a well-regarded retro arcade game, but I don’t think that many would describe it as a timeless classic (like Pac-Man or Galaga). With the development of the Amico a few years ago, the folks at Intellivision were looking for recognized franchises to revive exclusively for their upcoming console.
It was at this time that Moon Patrol: The Milky Way Chronicles was born.
Moon Patrol: The Milky Way Chronicles was being developed to be very reminiscent to the original arcade game. The powers that be (or rather powers that weren’t?) at Intellivision were so happy with how The Milky Way Chronicles was progressing, that they added a free demo to the Intellivision Amico mobile app.
As this very well could be the only way that anyone ever gets to play Moon Patrol: The Milky Way Chronicles, it is this demo that we are going to review here today.
As mentioned above, the gameplay of The Milky Way Chronicles didn’t stray much from the 1982 original. Players still controlled a six-wheeled space vehicle that traversed the terrain of interstellar planets, avoid and blasting away at threats whenever they arise.
Like before, your rover moves continually in an “endless runner” fashion, and players can either slow down or speed up their vehicle with one of two control schemes: the first is a virtual button system where areas of the left side of your screen can be pressed to change speed. The other option is to use a tilt controlled system, where tilting your device clockwise speeds up, and counterclockwise will slow you down.
You will still have to contend with multiple threats including enemy UFOs, land mines, pits of spike, and the dreaded, stationary space rock. No matter which control scheme you choose, you will have both your “jump” and “fire” abilities mapped to virtual buttons. The enemies and boulders can all be destroyed with a single shot, but the game gets tricky very quickly. The combinations of enemies and obstacles will require you to approach each hazard differently. Not only does your vertical shot fire at a much faster rate than your horizontal one, but and controlling your speed will also be critical in navigating the course (i.e. going fast enough to make a long jump).
Fortunately, there are a few things that make the trek slightly more manageable. There is a fairly generous checkpoint system that allows you to start over not too far back when you die, and you can choose to sacrifice your score if you want to continue (but only once per play). There are also multiple power-ups you can find that boost your rover’s abilities, such as a temporary green-glowing shield, and a spread shot attack which is very helpful in attacking any airborne enemies.
Despite these accommodations, the game design isn’t always your friend. The terrain in The Milky Way Chronicles is hilly and more uneven than the original. This makes the basic act of driving more fun, but your horizontal shot often didn’t land on target because it was absorbed by the ground, which is especially a problem when you are transitioning to a flat area from a downward incline. Even worse, no matter which control scheme you choose, your right thumb is constantly hovering in wait over the right side of the screen, obscuring obstacles and giving you less time to react to them. A standard control scheme (on a standard gaming controller) would have gone a long way in correcting this.
Aesthetically, The Milky Way Chronicles looks to have decent, but certainly not mind-blowing 3D graphics. All of the enemies and terrain features are fairly small, though this makes it easier to see things coming from a distance. The in-game soundtrack is basically an updated version of the original Moon Patrol’s music. It’s very upbeat and still has a retro tenor to it, and lends itself to the action fairly well.
Despite being only a demo, I never saw the end of Moon Patrol: The Milky Way Chronicles (I made it to “Checkpoint T”). The game certainly had its problems, but it wasn’t much that a standard controller and raising up your forward cannon just a bit wouldn’t fix. Of course, given the “non-traditional” controller designed for the Amico, there’s no telling whether it would have been any better upon its full release. Still, I was happy to see that a competent sequel to one of my favorite 80s arcade games was in the works.
It certainly looks like Intellivision has completely closed up shop and the Amico will never see an official release, but I hope that some of the games developed for it – certainly Moon Patrol: The Milky Way Chronicles – will eventually see a release on Steam or another console. In the meantime, I’m happy that the demo version exists, and I have to imagine that I will keep playing Moon Patrol: The Milky Way Chronicles until it is forcibly removed from my phone via a software update (RIP – DEO and Zaxxon: Escape), which will probably come sooner than later, given my luck.
Thanks for reading!
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