Thursday, February 4, 2021

Matter of Import 008: Mission Survive (Atari 2600, 1983)


Video Gems's Mission Survive is like Moon Patrol, if the people who made Moon Patrol didn't understand how controllers were supposed to work. You're driving through an endless rough terrain, shooting outrcoppings of rock and trying to stop UFOs from blowing you up, and trying to speed over the craters their missiles sometimes leave behind.

There are three UFOs flying overhead, each of which either is capable of taking multiple hits or is instantly replaced by a finite number of ships waiting in the wings; either way, you need to take them all out to progress to the next level.


Pretty simple yet engaging gameplay, and as I said, it worked well enough in Moon Patrol, though the 2600 port of Moon Patrol wasn't as much fun as the arcade game.

In Mission Survive the graphics are a little more primitive but what really dooms it is the control scheme. Press forward on the joystick to shoot ahead, push up to shoot up, pull back to slow down, and press the button – not to jump, but to jet forward over any gaps left by enemy bombs.

It's non-intuitive even after you play long enough to sort-of get the hang of it, especially if you, like me, played a lot of moon patrol.

What tripped me up the most, I think, was the other objects reactions to your changes in velocity. Yes, when you slow down by pressing left on the stick the bombs react by veering the other way to simulate a change in speed – but nothing else does. The gaps in the road, the outcroppings, and the UFOs don't change their behavior, and that threw me quite a bit.

Further, jetting ahead over the gaps in the rocks doesn't seem to make you actually go faster than you roll. And if you press back while hitting the button?

It just feels wrong, and that gameplay-feel is the most vital part of any game, especially one that's a variation of an extremely popular arcade game.

Once I started to get past the weird controls a bit the game was a little more entertaining, but honestly there's not enough there to really keep me engaged, and at best just kept me asking myself why I wasn't just playing Moon Patrol.

I'd give the game a C-. Better than Pac Kong, worse than Im Shcutz der Dragon.

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