Moon Buggy (Kansas City Systems) Review | Everygamegoing - Everygamegoing


Moon Buggy
By Kansas City Systems
Acorn Electron

Published in EGG #013: Acorn Electron

Moon Buggy

The Electron has relatively few games that use its most colourful mode because it updates the screen so slowly. But Moon Buggy is a "scrolling" arcade game that is noteworthy for one reason; daring to use this mode. Originally released by Kansas City Software, and available by mail order only, Moon Buggy is the very definition of rare. It's also the very definition of slow and boring. Basically you jump and shoot, and that's it.

The idea of Moon Buggy isn't original - it's one of those very simple concepts that probably suggested itself almost as soon as the first arcade machines were created. Namely, a surface littered with potholes and the player put in charge of a vehicle that has to jump over them. To make life a bit harder, spaceships fly overhead and drop bombs, rocks are placed in the path of the buggy and difficult-to-see landmines are buried in the ground too. To say the game "scrolls" is something of a misnomer; it is the "surface of the moon" that scrolls, by which I mean the line at the very bottom of the screen. Indeed, this probably explains why Moon Buggy can still manage to be playable, even in the Electron's most colourful and slowest mode.

To be playable, it does however, have to work very hard. The problem is that, from the moment that this game appears, you instinctively know that it won't have much to offer. It immediately confirms as much in two ways as soon as you tap a key to start. The first is that it begins to play an appalling cacophony of notes as a background tune. The second is it makes you wait at least a minute before it scrolls on the first pothole!

Moon Buggy

Now, to give it its due, it does take some skill to play. The buggy itself can be moved left and right and can perform jumps that propel it much further than expected across the screen. You do not have to wait until you're practically falling into a hole before pressing the key that will see you safely clear it, and some of the skill actually comes from jumping sooner than you might expect so that you have time to land, shoot away an obstruction on the far right of the screen and then jump a further hole. When you get it wrong, and your buggy explodes and its wheels bounce away, this is also quite a nice animated effect.

When the game gets going therefore, there are these little moments of hope that sort of temporarily distract you from its otherwise relentlessly plodding nature. The thing the player is most likely to remember about Moon Buggy is the overlong periods that demand complete nothing but his patience. Also, it's fairly unlikely that these periods are included to give you time to get your breath back; the more likely reason is that the game is purposefully strung out because there's actually so little to do.

As it progresses, it introduces different types of enemies and the playing area slowly "lights up" - revealing a rather pretty moonscape in the original darkness in the top-half of the screen. By no means is this spectacular enough that it's worth the effort, but it does make later stages (if you can be bothered to play through the earlier ones to reach them) feel a bit more "special".

As a Kansas City release, it's a bit of an oddity. Kansas were known for two things - text adventures, and really terrible games written in Basic. Moon Buggy is a machine code arcade game and so, set alongside its brethren, it almost manages to be pretty decent. If you're looking to find it, be prepared for an extremely long wait; sales of it probably struggled to reach triple figures. The Micro User found the BBC version "didn't offer anything particularly new" (Note that the BBC version plays significantly faster) and EUG (who reviewed it sixteen years after its initial release!) thought it all "too much damned hard work for no reward other than getting to see the background picture".

With all of that said, of course there aren't too many games of this "type" on the Electron. I would personally prefer Caveman Capers or Kissin' Kousins because they are much more exciting to play, but if you fancy a slower-paced jump-and-fire game then Moon Buggy may give you a few moments of pleasure. Due to scarcity rather than quality, if you do manage to find it, expect to pay around £15.

Dave E

Other Acorn Electron Game Reviews By Dave E

  • Kissin' Kousins Front Cover
    Kissin' Kousins
  • Kissin' Kousins Front Cover
    Kissin' Kousins
  • Caveman Capers Front Cover
    Caveman Capers
  • Repton Infinity Front Cover
    Repton Infinity
  • Flint Strikes Back Front Cover
    Flint Strikes Back
  • Inertia Front Cover
  • Arcade Soccer Front Cover
    Arcade Soccer
  • Joe Blade Front Cover
    Joe Blade
  • Codename: Droid Front Cover
    Codename: Droid
  • Licence To Kill Front Cover
    Licence To Kill