Moon Patrol was an arcade smash hit from Williams (licensed from Irem), so it was only natural that Atari wanted it on its "Personal Arcade System". Although GCC handled the 2600 port of Moon Patrol, Atari decided to use its own in-house staff for the Atari 5200 and 8-bit versions of the game. It is believed that GCC was also handling the Atari 7800 port, but so far a prototype for this version has not been found.
In Moon Patrol you are a Luna City police officer assigned to Sector Nine, the home of the "toughest thugs in the galaxy." Your goal is to patrol the surface of the moon while avoiding various obstacles and hazards ranging from UFO's to land mines. Your moon buggy is armed with lasers that shoot upwards in addition to forwards. You will need to use these lasers to fend off the various enemies that appear throughout the game.
As previously mentioned, there are several obstacles that appear throughout the game. Some obstacles only appear at higher levels or in certain zones. At the top of the screen there are three indicator lights which indicate the type of enemy in the current zone. The top light indicates UFOs, the middle one indicates a minefield, and the bottom one indicates enemies approaching from behind.
One of the more interesting aspects of Moon Patrol is its checkpoint system. The various areas in Moon Patrol are divided up into zones labeled from A to Z. Each time the player passes into a new zone the obstacles and enemies will change, sometimes quite dramatically. These zones also serve as 'continue points' for when the player dies (you start back at the last zone passed). Every five zones (six for the final area) the player will reach a checkpoint which signifies the end of a level. Depending on the amount of time taken to reach the checkpoint, the player may receive bonus points and be informed if they broke the level record or not.
The graphics in Moon Patrol are a bit of a mixed bag. The backgrounds and enemy graphics are very faithful to the arcade version, but your buggy looks like its been smashed into several times. The arcade version of Moon Patrol was one of the first games to feature Parallax scrolling, and this feature was actually incorporated into the 5200 version of the game. According to the programmer this effect was accomplished by simply changing the scroll rate at the appropriate scanlines. The sound effects are pretty close to the arcade version, and there is a cute little tune that constantly plays in the background that will stick in your head for days.
According to Scott Smith, shortly before the Atari 5200 version was released pirated copies started appearing on various bulletin board systems for the Atari 8-bit. This was a huge problem as not only had the Atari 5200 version not yet been released, but the Atari 8-bit version wasn't even finished yet! Apparently some clever individual had gotten a hold of a 5200 prototype cartridge and hacked the Atari 5200 version into working on the Atari 8-bit computer. Rampant piracy was a huge problem for Atari as many games were leaked to bulletin boards before they were even released.
The Atari 5200 version of Moon Patrol is an amazing port. Not only does it keep most of the graphics (well maybe not the buggy) and sounds of the arcade game, but it manages to perfectly reproduce the gameplay as well. Although the Atari 5200 version of Moon Patrol was finished before the Atari 8-bit version (a marketing decision), the 5200 version seems to be much harder to find. Moon Patrol is one of the better arcade ports for the 5200 and is well worth the effort of tracking down a copy.