One small step for man...
Lunar Rescue holds the honour of being the oldest game I have reviewed on Retro Spirit Games. It is also one of the few games I can stomach playing that was created before I was even born. Coming from the era of Space Invaders, where graphics were in their infancy, Lunar Rescue is another 'space' game - the go-to genre of choice back in those days, probably due to the fact the background could comprise of a little more than a black screen with a few white dots. Indeed, the visuals on offer here are incredibly basic but at least colourful, with a garish selection of colours for the games sprites. It actually resembles a ZX Spectrum game, due mainly to the fact that your ship changes to the colour of whatever enemy sprite inhabits the same horizontal area - this is the first arcade game I have seen with colour clash! With such crappy visuals you would hope that the game is fun, right? Well, thankfully your hopes are rewarded, as Lunar Rescue is extremely enjoyable and rewarding to play. It certainly must be doing something right when it can still be played and enjoyed some 34 years after its initial release!
The aim is simplicity itself. Starting in a large mothership at the top of the playing area, you chose when to launch and begin your descent to the planet surface below, avoiding the moving asteroids that stand in your way. Your ship moves constantly but you can use your thrusters to slow your descent, at the cost of fuel - run out and you will plummet to your death. There are several platforms at ground level that you must land on, the smallest of which are worth the most points. Once you touch down on your platform of choice, a stranded friendly jumps on your ship. The process is then reversed, using your thrusters to speed up your ascent towards the safety of the mothership's docking bay. This time, however, the asteroids are replaced with Space Invader style enemies who fire down at you. You can shoot back, but doing so also uses your thruster, so must be used carefully. Once you have returned the comrade to the mothership you then repeat the process until all men are rescued. It's a great combination of styles that works extremely well - An addictive cocktail of Space Invaders, Thrust and Asteroids.
As with all the best old school arcade games, it is incredibly simple, yet addictive, stuff. Navigating your way through the asteroids towards the planet surface is tense stuff, especially on later levels when the amount of rocks drastically increases, and blasting your way back to safety through swarms of invaders is very satisfying. I am no expert, but I think the trick to the game is, firstly, choosing the right moment to begin your descent and using the thrusters sparingly as you have limited fuel reserves. On the ascent, try to stay out of the direct path of the enemies as they can fire very suddenly and take you by surprise. Also, stay away from the sides as new adversaries can appear from nowhere, sometimes directly in your path.
Sure, it looks like shit today (let's be honest), and the sound effects are of the repetitive 'tinnitus inducing' variety, but it is bloody good fun to play and will keep you coming back again and again to try and get a higher score. Lunar Rescue was also included on all of the Taito Legends compilations that were released on the PC, Xbox, PS2 and PSP, so my advice would be to grab one of those - they are full of many other excellent coin-op classics.
Lunar Rescue is much a historical artifact of gaming as it is an enjoyable arcade game. One that has stood the test of time, and will still be enjoyable in another 34 years. How many other games can make that claim?
Title : Lunar Rescue
Developer : Taito
Year : 1979
System : Arcade
Also on : BBC, PS2, PSP, Xbox, PC (Via Taito Legends)