Holy cow! This game is simply amazing. When I describe it to friends who don’t know a lot about the Intellivision, I explain that this is a game on par with early NES titles, but played on a system that is from the late 1970’s. It’s incredible that the Intellivision hardware can be pushed to this extent. You have to see this game to believe that this kind of thing is possible.
The scrolling of the screen is smooth, the response to the controls is quick, basically it bucks against the stereotypical flaws of Intellivision games. It honestly feels to me just about identical to playing Moon Patrol on my cab. It easily gets an arcadeability rating of 5.
I played my way through all four “worlds” of the game (is the moon a world?) on the Beginner skill level. The game also offers a Champion skill level to which I may give a whirl sometime later. I’m not the best at these kinds of games, so Beginner felt about right to me.
But of course, it isn’t just Moon Patrol. The game gives you a choice of playing on the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and Pluto. Each has themed backgrounds and slightly different challenges. The Moon levels are the most basic (though basic does not mean easy when you get to the later sections).
I put together a set of screen shots from my run through the Moon level (not in play order, just organized by how I like them). The shot on the bottom right shows a detail I really appreciated – there seems to be a city on the Moon in the background. After you leave the city, most of the action takes place with just mountains and craters in the background.
I got through the Moon level without too much pain. It definitely got challenging for me towards the end of the level and I was doing a fair bit of saving and restoring in the emulator to get through some of the parts, and it was satisfying to finish.
Mars was a deal harder than the Moon level. By the end of the level, I was using the save/restore functionality on my emulator a LOT to get past difficult sections. There was a section near U (I think) that had me seriously frustrated. But I managed to get through it and finish.
Mars is the first place where you’ll encounter the smugglers in the little rocketship that comes up behind you. The first smuggler I encountered wasn’t too bad, but the second one laid mines as he went! I got a real surprise the first time I shot at him and assumed he was gone!
This game is just a pleasure to play. Even when I was frustrated at my lack of skill (I’m not the best player of these kinds of games) I wanted to keep going. (I hope I’ll still think so on Mercury and Pluto!)
Pluto seemed to me to be on par with Mars. I was definitely getting beat up in parts.
I liked the appearance of cities in the background again, and of course variation in the ships that are attacking. On this level I grabbed a shot of the large plant that appears as an obstacle. That plant showed up on Mars as well, but I didn’t get a screenshot.
The smugglers’ ships are back again, but this time in front of you and flying backwards! And they are apparently solid pilots, as they are able to avoid the rocks in their way while flying.
Mercury is the hardest of the four places to beat. I definitely needed many save/restores to finish it (again, all of this on the Beginner skill level!). The visuals are pretty great here. I think one of the reasons that Mercury is so difficult is the yellow background when you’re on the surface. The white bombs are just plain hard to see!
And speaking of the surface, Mercury takes you underground into some caves/tunnels for part of the action. Stalactites drop down on you from the ceiling. It definitely added another level of challenge, because apparently the enemy space craft are quite adept at flying underground as well.
All in all, this game is awesome. It plays awesomely on an arcade cab as well.
The controls mapping for this game is very simple. For gameplay you really only need left and right movement mapped to E and W on the INTV controller and two arcade buttons mapped to top and bottom side action buttons. You also need a way to hit ENTER, so if that’s not mapped it will need to be. On my cab, arcade.kbd configuration is fine for this game.
How does it compare to the original arcade game?
Space Patrol is the port of Moon Patrol we never got in the 80’s. As I mentioned above, the gameplay is nearly identical. All the elements are there and more.
I don’t think it too bold of a claim to call this the best arcade port for Intellivision. Although the new Donkey Kong carts from Elektronite give it a serious run for that title.