Written by  :  WildKard (12987)
Written on  :  Nov 04, 2004
Platform  :  NES
Rating  :  3.75 Stars3.75 Stars3.75 Stars3.75 Stars3.75 Stars

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Lunar Lander's revenge comes with equipable ships!

The Good

Take the simple game of Moonlander (also known as Lunar Lander) as the base. You know, where you have a falling spaceship and have to use fuel and inertia to land it safely at a landing. Take that base and add elements to it: instead of landing, you explore different planets with different gravity... and instead of doing it again and again, you're on a quest to recover various items. To get these items will require a tractor beam, and every time you use this tractor beam... you'll be pulling extra weight, changing your ship's thrust and inertia. The more you collect, the more money you can spend on improvements and power-ups that will help you out. And if, heaven forbid, the little lunar lander-esque probe happens to crash... Solar Jetman is able to eject and run towards his mothership, and come back using a spare probe. Now, that's not all there is to Solar Jetman, but that's the best part. There *is* a "comedic" storyline, however rest assured, all the real fun is in the gameplay and the gameplay alone (I list the storyline below under my negative impressions). It's challenging, it's fun and it comes with just enough new items to deliver and landscapes to make you feel like you're doing something productive.

Also the game is pretty, well at least it is during the landings and takeoff from the planets. We're talking some of the nicest graphics ever seen on an 8-bit NES. And since you get to watch them at the beginning and ending of each level, it almost seems like a reward to watch the NES display alien planets. Sadly the graphics in between aren't that great, however they're on par with other NES titles (many 8-bit games don't have background graphics. I suspect I've been spoiled by newer titles)

The Bad

What's not to like? well, a lot actually. First and most obvious, if you don't like dealing with inertia, this game's not for you. If you're hoping for something else in the gameplay, prepare to be disappointed. Even with all of it's extra stuff, the heart of this game is still Lunar Lander.

And if that isn't boring enough, the game itself has no music to speak of. There is a soundtrack technically I suppose, but the music is a series of background noise which doesn't really work all that well... I suppose they might be trying to go for the emptiness of space, but players will do better by having something else outside the NES to listen to. This game won't ever be celebrated by videogame music lovers.

The game is also very hard in some parts. The inertia and thrust balance is a bit hard to deal with until you discover the Thrusters power-up, and even then... there's some planets where the gravity is so strong (I believe level 2 or level 3 has the highest gravity in the game) that it's very easy to over-compensate. All of this is done with a NES controller, which is adequate to the task, but isn't always responsive when you need it to be.

As mentioned before, ignore the storyline and you'll be doing yourself a huge favor. Just use your imagination and make up your own. Or just pretend it's an extension of the events of Crystal Caves... just ANYTHING besides "The Federation of Space Loonies". You'll be doing yourself a favor.

The Bottom Line

This game is simple in the same ways that Lunar Lander is, the tiny spaceship-probe can thrust, turn and fire your peashooter to avoid enemies and obstacles... approach some interesting item and try to tow it back to your mothership. Repeat the sequence to discover interesting items, interesting upgrades and eventually all the pieces of the Golden Warpship, which when assembled is when the game turns into a shooter.

Frankly the game is all about the gameplay and for that alone, it's one of my favorite NES titles. And I enjoy it for the same reason that I've enjoyed other "remakes with fun new stuff" style games such as Starscape (Asteroids remake) or... well that's the only one I can think of as I'm writing this review, but I'm sure there are more.