Moonsweeper - The Atari Times
Fortunately, this doesn't involve cleaning lunar dust!
by Rob AdairOctober 3, 2007
OK, bad puns aside, Moonsweeper is actually a very interesting game for the Atari 2600. It seems like standard shooter fare from Imagic, but it's actually two different gameplay styles in one. Your mission is to rescue stranded miners off the many moons of Jupiter- (Apparently in the future, adding roots to existing planet names is how they distinguish them!) You start out in space, dodging solar flares and enemy attacks, while trying to find a moon to land on. Once you do that, your goal is to fly across the surface, rescuing miners while destroying enemy ships and obstacles. Once you do that, you have to take off, lather rinse repeat. The gameplay formula may seem simple, but it's got a fairly decent challenge within it that makes it more fun.
I must say that the graphics are impressive for the most part. When you're in orbit there's not a lot to see, save for a sun at the top of the screen, and solar flares and shots being fired at you. When you land on a planet, though, it's when things change for the better. The surfaces are simple in color, but the fact that the objects on the surface actually scroll towards you in 3D is what makes it impressive. In addition, the smooth movements of the graphics also make you feel like you're really flying across the planet surface instead of just a static background.
The sound department is where the game doesn't really excel. There's no real special sounds, just bleeps and explosions, with varying tones depending on what happened, like when you rescue a miner or an enemy target is flying across the surface. The only saving grace is how the game plays 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' when you use up your last life. I didn't know that Atari programmers actually felt sorry for you when you died in a video game!
At first, you might think you're just flying through space while shooting at enemies underneath part of a sun. But that's only half of it. Once you've found a moon surface to land on, your goal changes to rescuing miners that are trapped on the planet surface. But nobody said that was going to be easy. The enemies are launching craft that deploy small saucers that not only attempt to shoot you down, but also kidnap the miners, making your job more difficult. Also, there are towers on the surface that act as obstacles, making things more challenging. Once you've rescued enough miners, you need to fly through several rings to gain enough speed to take off. However, they aren't always straight, meaning that you'll need good hand-eye coordination to be able to leave the planet surface with your miners.
The only penalty here is because of the way you have to pull back on your joystick and press the button to activate shields in space, or fire a missile into the sky when on a moon surface. Otherwise, the game controls fine. Controlling your ship is very responsive, and you can speed up or slow down with no problem. Even in space, adjusting your speed allows you to change the trajectory of your orbit notably.
Moonsweeper isn't exactly a groundbreaking game in any way, but it presents a unique challenge to players with two separate gameplay sections, both of which seem easy at first, but are deceptively challenging. Not only does it look good, but it plays well too. Even if you're not impressed with the sound. Moonsweeper is definitely one sweeping job you'll enjoy.
Title screens are overrated anyway. Look out for comets 'n' stuff. See those guys? Drive right over them a SQUISH!
Graphics Score: 75%
Sound & Music Score: 45%
Gameplay Score: 80%
Control Score: 95%
Final Score: 90%