Friday, December 21, 2012

"Moon Patrol", 1983.

Things have been slow on this end, but as this blog just surpassed 4000 views, I thought I ought to do something to celebrate... toss a bone to the quiet readers who have been appreciating our increasingly long tail here. So here's another ad-as-comic-strip, one of my favorite styles due to the neat dovetailing with the comic book medium in which these ads were being published! Nothing as nice as the TurboGrafx-16 centrefolds we've seen, but it's still a nice piece of work. This advertises both the version for the popular Atari 2600 and the ill-fated, incompatible 5200 (which eventually, like the ColecoVision and IntelliVision, got an adaptor allowing 2600 cartridges, but ... too little too late.)
Neil Armstrong: "Houston, this is Apollo. I'm on the ladder !"
Mission Control: "Roger, we've got the picture!"
Neil Armstrong: "That's one small step for... Hey, somebody's up here !!"
Mission Control: "Are you buggy ? ? ?"
Neil Armstrong: "No, a moon buggy!!"
"Neil Armstrong: "It's jumping over craters and blowing up rocks!!!"
Mission Control: "Apollo, what's it like up there?"
Neil Armstrong: "It's just like in the arcade!

I could tell you that Moon Patrol is awesome, but you already know that. I could pass along the apocryphal note that it was the first game allowing score continuation after death with a new coin (and hence the end of the "high score = further anyone got on one credit" era), but, well, I just did.
I dig the way they situate this weird videogame situation, mashing it up with actual lunar history. Of course, Armstrong's moonwalk mission was Apollo 11, while the US wouldn't be using lunar rovers on the surface until Apollo 15, 16 and 17 in 1971 and '72. (Thank you, Wikipedia!) So is what we're seeing here the earlier Soviet Lunokhod rover? Nope -- that was still a year after "One small step..." Sadly, this comic strip must just be conceived as a writer's whimsy and not an actual rigorous extrapolation from known events. Moon Patrol: it's not historical canon.
The panels aren't especially well-used -- only one full panel is devoted to a depiction of gameplay -- though perhaps that suffices, as further panels wouldn't look much different. The dialogue is predictably weak -- a single "buggy" pun in place of humour. The parting line, "It's just like in the arcade!" coming from the departing lander, leaves an opening for a tie-in to a home conversion of Atari's 1979 Lunar Lander arcade game, but no such conversion exists, alas! (You could multiplex the games -- first, you need to successfully land the lander, then you have to drive the buggy on patrol. Missed opportunity, Nolan!)