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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

Review: Lunar Lander Beyond

Before Nintendo, there was Atari. The tech company quickly became a giant in the cultural zeitgeist for many years, bringing forth video games into the hands of families across the country. It was a wild and innovative time when video games were new and unheard of. They were simple games, requiring players to use their imaginations to go along with the gameplay. There would be thousands of Atari games, from Space Invaders to Yars' Revenge. Then, there was Lunar Lander.

To play Atari's Lunar Lander is to play video game history itself. The concept began as early as 1969. Atari released it as a game in 1979 and it became profound in its presentation and gameplay mechanics. Now, 55 years later, Atari is releasing the newest iteration of Lunar Lander as Lunar Lander Beyond.

Would You Like to Play A Game?

Atari has been a roll lately! They've released new interpretations of classic games from Missile Command Rearmed to Caverns of Mars: Recharged. These aren't remasters or remakes but new foundational interpretations of the classics. These include new visual styles and new music, as well as enhancements to the gameplay. Lunar Lander Beyond follows this tradition and is certainly another big hit.

"We went to the developers of Cris Tales and pitched the idea," a member at the Atari booth told me. Dreams Incorporated and Syck were the talents known for Cris Tales. The colorful RPG was released in 2021 and the game was lauded for its gameplay and presentation. "The team took the idea and presented a strong example. We liked it so much, the team got to work right away. "

To the landing pad and beyond

Lunar Lander Beyond is a foundational upgrade to the original Lunar Lander. For those a little too young to remember the original Lunar Lander, it was an arcade game with simple shapes to convey the experience. Players piloted their lander and were scored based on where they landed and where. It was an engaging arcade game where players kept throwing in quarters to get that high score.

Lunar Lander Beyond puts players in the future, where the Earth is uninhabitable but the rest of space is. The Pegasus Corporation is a highly advanced but malevolent company that operates landers and places players in dangerous situations. After a system-wide galactic anomaly arrives, it's up to the player and his newfound crew to save the Solar System.

Earning those wings

Lunar Lander Beyond maintains that same gameplay mechanic of the original but upgrades it in various ways. The gameplay is now complimented by a sharp presentation that feels like a graphic novel come to life. This is certainly a far cry from the vector lines that adorned the original but it stands strong and vibrant on its own.

Lunar Lander Beyond has the same basics of flying, landing, and maneuvering through dangers. The difference is in the type of ship being used, the pilot, special attributes, and the mental status of the pilot. Understanding each section of the gameplay can turn a landing run into an S-ranked achievement.

The Eagle has landed

The starter ship is big, slow, and bulky. It offers solid protection and powerful propulsion but doesn't expect to go anywhere too quickly. Players later unlock the dragonfly, which is nimble and quicker but not as sturdy. There are several ships to choose from and knowing which ship is important in Lunar Lander Beyond.

Each ship can be equipped with various tools, such as shields and tractor beams. These tools are essential depending on the mission. One mission has players use the portable shield to crash into incoming meteors to protect a base. Other tools include super boosters and a dash. An essential tool is the stabilizer. This slows and rights the ship, which is perfect for high-speed maneuvering.

Lunar Lander Beyond going beyond

The final aspects of the gameplay are pilots and mental health. Video games make many things seem easy, including flying spaceships. Flying spaceships are not easy. In fact, they can be the most challenging and stressful vehicles ever commandeered. Thousands of tons of ship and explosive fuel dancing through zero gravity is not a good time.

Lunar Lander Beyond gives players a selection of pilots. Each pilot has a quirk such as using less fuel or moving faster. During missions, players can incur stress, from bumping into explosive mines to simply impacting parts of a level. If enough stress is accumulated, things start to unravel in humorous and challenging ways.

Pressed for Stress

High-stress levels cause many oddities to happen. Eyes and mouths start to appear in space. The radar scrambles and there is no sense of direction. The environment begins to bleed colors and distort. Before you know it, pink elephants straight out of Disney's Dumbo appear. The cure for this is medicine in the level. They are shaped like pills and can briefly get a player back on track. However, if the stress is high enough, these pills can instead be bombs.

For treatment, players select one of several methods. One method is free but sits the pilot out for a time. Others require money but are faster. In each level of Lunar Lander Beyond, players can collect credits. These are triangle-shaped floating objects that can be collected during the course of a mission. Collect enough and a pilot can get back to operating status in no time.

What's old is new again

Playing Lunar Lander Beyond is an indescribable thrill. It's a triumphant merging of the old and the new, bringing the classic philosophies into the modern era and giving a modern update without sacrificing the core mechanics that made Lunar Lander such a blast to begin with.

It's slow enough for players to think and fast enough to get the heart racing. It's a game that rewards those who are fast but most importantly, those with strong control. The missions are varied from pick-ups to escape to hacking systems. This modern update also puts mental health at the center and is handled well. There will undoubtedly be very strong memories made with families whose parents grew up with the original and can now share with their kids.

A few scratches on the paint

The only drawback to Lunar Lander Beyond is repetition. The levels change with objectives and location as the games take place across The Solar System. However, the base gameplay remains the same. This can be changed up with different ships and tools to chase the gold medal for each mission. However, the gameplay doesn't go further than what is presented. There is a strong foundation to spring off, however.

Additionally, the Steamdeck version isn't quite up to snuff. At the moment, it's listed as playable. I can confirm it is indeed playable and controls well, but the technical issues remain, namely thigh the cutscenes. However, I'm sure those issues will be buffed out in subsequent patches.

To Lunar Landing and BEYOND

There can be an argument about why older games are coming back instead of making brand-new games altogether. However, in that argument, there is the defense that classic games, especially Atari classics, were built on the foundational philosophy of fun and enjoyment. Lunar Lander Beyond is an amazing game that builds on this philosophy. I personally can't wait to see what Atari does here as the company continues to bring back the classics that started it all. Here's to hoping for a remake of Star Raiders!

Lunar Lander Beyond goes above and beyond what a modern update is expected to do. It's fun and challenging. It's a classic game with classic gameplay brought with a modern twist. It's a game with a solid story and strong presentation that can be replayed over and over. Lunar Lander Beyond sticks the landing. Suit up and grab a ship. It's time to be a Lander!

Lunar Lander: Beyond was reviewed on an Auros Gaming laptop and a Steamdeck thanks to a review key generously supplied by Uber Strategist.

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