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Lunar Lander Beyond Review – Fantastic Enhanced Arcade Classic

Lunar Lander Beyond is a reimagining of the 1979 arcade classic in a narrative-driven space exploration adventure. Developed by Dreams Uncorporated and published by Atari, the game takes the core elements of lunar travel and landing your spacecraft safely and adds an engaging story that sees you as captain of the Pegasus Corporation. When the game launches on April 23, 2024, you are tasked with leading a fleet of landers within the story and controlling pilots and ships in missions spanning the galaxy.

While recommended to play with a controller, I was stubborn and just played with keyboard and mouse. The game’s menu has a retro feel to it and reminded me of playing DOS games back in the day. You can continue the next story mission, choose previous missions to revisit and try beat your performance, check on the status of your pilots, and upgrade your ship. Initially limited to a single pilot and a single ship, your crew will expand, and each crew member has different perks, and a chance of being elite which enhances their abilities.

Each mission provides an advancement to the premise of the overarching story with animated cutscenes helping connect each location together. There are 30 missions total across five moons and planets: Nueva Luna, Mars, Venus, Ganymede, and the mysterious Etimus. I controlled the lander with WSAD and as I gained new ship modules, these were bound to J, K and L by default, and this became a comfortable layout to use. You start with basic thrust and stabilisers, both of which use fuel (unless your pilot is specialised for fuel efficient). As you fly through space, you need to try collect credit chips, health and fuel bonuses and progress the mission, ultimately having to land your craft safely.

It took the first several missions to get a handle on the zero-gravity maneuvering and not expending too much fuel stabilising the ship. New ship modules are discovered in missions and encourages exploration, and these start with the stabiliser and advance to a tractor beam and turbo boost, plus more. There is a steady increase in the difficulty curve and complexity of navigating missions and landing safely. You may need to land and pick up stranded pilots from platforms, or you may need to find shield powerups and ram asteroids to prevent them crashing into a shield that is protecting a populace. Just when I felt I was mastering the controls and abilities, a new danger or obstacle will need to be navigated.

If you hit objects or crash land, initially you just lose health and you earn bonus credits the more health you finish a mission with. Newly added in Lunar Lander Beyond is where your pilot also gains stress which increases the chance of various distracting effects like hallucinations, blurred vision and more. If the pilot’s stress maxes out after a couple of missions, you will need to send them to sick bay. You can treat them for free, but it takes four missions for them to heal. Otherwise, you will need to pay credits to instantly heal them, but it’s very expensive.

Completing each mission shows your completion status, usually measured against a timer and you will earn gold, silver or bronze stars. I ran each mission once through to completion just to advance the story, but it was great to revisit previous missions having unlocked new abilities and I could feel a progression in my skill levels. Players will explore a vast solar system filled with diverse environments, from desolate asteroid belts to lush alien jungles. Each celestial body presents unique challenges, demanding adaptation of your piloting skills and strategic thinking.

Lunar Lander Beyond caters to both casual explorers and hardcore space aces. You can choose from four difficulty levels, with the most punishing throwing permadeath into the mix. One wrong move under immense pressure could send you careening back to the launchpad, forcing you to hone your piloting skills and strategise even more meticulously. I just stuck to normal difficulty and felt a great sense of progression, though some missions I had to repeat many times just to pass with a bronze rating. You can drop the difficulty if you are really struggling and bump it up later. This gives you another reason to go back and try previous missions once you have mastered your favourite ship.

Overall, Lunar Lander Beyond is a fantastic nod to the 70’s arcade classic and added a compelling story, crew management and a diverse set of missions. These are all wrapped in a visually stunning hand-drawn universe as you hone your skills, improve your pilots and unlock different ships. Being able to go back to improve on previous mission performance is excellent and the overall aesthetic is a great mix of nostalgia. Whether you’re a seasoned space captain or a wide-eyed rookie, Lunar Lander Beyond offers a thrilling launchpad for an unforgettable journey.

This review utilised a Steam key provided by UberStrategist PR and Lunar Lander Beyond will launch on April 23, 2024, on Steam, Epic Games Store, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and Atari VCS.

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