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LUNAR LANDER BEYOND review – Save the galaxy by parking well

Reading Time: 8 minutes


Welcome to the podcast that pokes around retrogaming, zooming through the history of its authors and eagerly splashing in the depths of your favourite video games.
And now, time for something completely new.
The best podcasters often use a term that I’ve never been comfortable with.
The term is “review”.
Like all reviews, if you google around you will find people writing them from all over the place, but now I will be the one to write one and for this reason I will start from its own definition, so I can give you a solid starting point: the review par excellence according to Google is a newspaper or magazine article intended to illustrate and critically judge something, in this case a video game.
There are a thousand examples: there are people who have built a professional career by writing them and many others whose attempt was nothing more than suicide by grammar.
And from this plethora of experts and not so expert amateurs, I was the only one who yet hadn’t joined the roster of online reviewers. But finally, my contribution:
A review by Atariteca of a game released just over a month ago!
A new format for this podcast. A new way to bond with modern gamers without displeasing retro gamers too much.
It just so happens that the code for LUNAR LANDER BEYOND has arrived in Atariteca, by courtesy of none other than Atari itself. An Atari game in a podcast called Atari…teca. Fittingly mind-blowing. What better space to review it? Doesn’t this seem like a memorable event? Don’t you think it’s a triple Christmas deluxe with a cherry on top?
Yes it seems like it, I know. And, trust me, it feels like it, too! I was thrilled to have the opportunity to play it and so, here we are again, back to square one.
Welcome to Atariteca’s first stellar review of Lunar Lander Beyond.
Let’s start our engines and… liftoff!

I deserve better than this modern world. I definitely don’t deserve a depressing world of trivialities, duckface selfies and influencer inconsistencies flaunted everywhere… Instead, I wish for age in which video games like Lunar Lander Beyond are released more than once in a blue moon.
An upgraded, 2.0 version of the golden age of video gaming.
But no. Video games like Lunar Lander Beyond are unique gems, flashes of pleasure in this world of pain, gulps of fresh air in this modern smoggy landscape.

A world of pain

Let’s start with the premise: Lunar Lander, which we’ve already discussed in episode 129, was a brilliant coin-op arcade with vector graphics that were astounding for that time. Then as today, published by our ever-loving Atari.
It had been laying forgotten in the recesses of our collective minds and dreams, but until Atari had the brilliant idea of making a sequel with a very strong, no frills characterisation, we didn’t even realise just how much we needed it. And I’m thrilled.
Being able to fulfill the task while keeping this gaming experience recognizable while also giving it its own personality must have been very difficult, especially in today’s video game production ecosystem, made up of planning, focus groups, and more obstacles to overcome than new paths to follow.
Well. Incredible to say, the guys at Dreams Uncorporated made it. They abandoned vector graphics to approach a cartoonish aesthetic beaded with exciting cut scenes, implementing the management of the pilots’ mental health into the gameplay, and they give us a small victory of creativity and inspiration over power and planning. They give us a dream. They give us a spectacular home run.

Lunar Lander Beyond

The thing is… to most people, in 2024, retrogaming is the early Nintendo or the early Sega video games, and there are few of us left who remember what was there before.
If you think about it, nothing is more retrogaming than the spirit of Atari. In recent years, Atari has changed pace by starting to publish some of its classic titles in a modernized way. Nothing that can be classified with triple As, obviously, but enough to attract modern gamers in these times where the most anticipated releases all look alike. And then comes Atari, that publishes Akka Harr, QOMP2, and the upcoming Yars Rising.
I, however, am here to talk to you about Lunar Lander Beyond. An exciting title that put me back behind the wheel of a spaceship, and which (now that I’ve played it I can confirm) is much more fun and elaborate than the original.


If you’ve been following Atari’s return to prominence, you may have noticed that it came in phases: the first phase was through the “Recharged” series: a lot of classic arcade titles like Centipede, Missile Command, and Breakout. Simple games strongly rooted in the arcade gameplay, repurposed to provide a more current gaming experience.
And now: phase two, which enriches the history and legacy of some of Atari’s most memorable games.
Phase two began last year with a new version of Haunted House and will continue with the fast approaching release, by the end of 2024, of Yar’s Rising, sequel to Yar’s Revenge. Between these releases we are delighted with Lunar Lander Beyond; sequel to the arcade cabinet Lunar Lander, which, since April 24th has been offering us an enhanced version of the original, with a rich cast of characters and wide variety of stages to be completed.
We’d been waiting for this sequel for forty-five years, and let me tell you: it’s worth the wait.


45 years later Lunar Lander Beyond takes the basic concepts of the original and transforms them into a truly modern video game, complete with characters you can become fond of and a compelling story that is much more detailed and complex than a simple moon landing.
Set in a future about 150 years away, where space exploration is now a well-established habit and planets like Mars and Venus are humanity’s backyard, you play as a new hire at Pegasus; a company that transports goods and recovers resources and people in solar systems. Your life as a space pilot changes forever when a series of devastating black holes mysteriously appear across the galaxy, wreaking havoc and mass destruction across planets. In the blink of an eye, Pegasus goes from being a simple galactic courier company to being a vital part of rescue efforts throughout the universe.
And as a new employee of the Pegasus Corporation, the player’s life is more stressful than we can even imagine. This megacorporation provides deliveries across the galaxy, but to contain its expenses it pays its pilots very little—so little that things like oxygen and water are luxuries to them. In this hellish (a little too familiar, right?!) capitalist nightmare, it’s up to you, the player, to make enough to survive. The player’s task quickly becomes that of tackling increasingly arduous flights in an attempt to recover objects and save people stranded on different planets, all while learning more and more about the catastrophic event that has devastated the galaxy.

Black holes everywhere

Lunar Lander Beyond is sold to us as a sequel to the classic arcade game and in some ways it is that, given that we will spend most of our time learning to masterfully pilot our rescue module, but the novelty lies in our necessity of understanding what is happening around us, our control over a fun cast of characters, including a drug-addicted doctor, a burned-out ex-pilot, and even a Russian woman who harbors an atavistic hatred towards everything related to Pegasus, the company we work for and which blatantly represents the embodiment of turbo capitalism.


Adrian Tsakonis in searching for pot

Precision is the keyword of the game, you have to be careful when using the thrusters to counteract gravity and there is the constant threat of losing control of the module. With the constant pressure of time and limited fuel looming over us, it doesn’t take long for the challenge of Lunar Lander Beyond to get interesting.
While it may seem that Lunar Lander Beyond is nothing more than a futuristic version of Choplifter (another classic covered in episode 117), you can rest assured the game also includes navigation through labyrinths and hostile areas, and you might have to save people stranded around when you least expect it, even when the mission at hand is not specifically rescue-oriented.
The great thing about this game is the way it allows different characters to express their opinion and raise some important questions while interacting with the player. Sometimes these conversations can make it difficult to figure out who is right or wrong.
Luckily the possibility of unlocking some upgrades that greatly facilitate the life of a space pilot comes early on.
The first of these upgrades is the stabilizer, which slows the ship to a halt in place at the cost of a little extra fuel. There’s also a shield that you can activate if you’re about to get hit by something (but it uses up fuel incredibly quickly), and a power-up to speed you through levels. There are more than a dozen additional upgrades to collect during missions, but the ship only has room to equip three, so you will have to decide which one is most suitable and when to use it.
There are some fun twists to the story and the voice cast, along with the numerous cut-scenes present, do a great job of keeping things interesting even when it comes to completing simple missions.


In addition to the different upgrades, Lunar Lander Beyond also includes four different ships to select throughout the story. The starting Beetle is a sturdy little ship with difficult to master controls. As you progress through the game you will unlock other types of ships such as the Dragonfly, which is totally different. It has the ability to move immediately where you want to direct it without having to rotate it around its axis and then activate the thrusters, it completely changes the way you can pilot it, but to compensate for how much easier it is to manoeuvre, it moves at an impossibly slow pace. The Spider is the exact opposite of the others: it moves very fast, so fast, in fact, that it is very easy to crash. It takes skill to master it but the truly important thing is that thanks to the very different shuttles, the game gets that much-needed variety which prevents its becoming boring and which, ultimately, lets the player choose the best piloting experience and ship to tackle the stage at hand and because each stage is best suited to a specific ship, it’s important to master them all.

lunar lander beyond


Among the changes made to the gameplay, Lunar Lander Beyond implements the most original I’ve ever seen: the management of the mental stress of our pilots.
And this is how it works: when the lander hits objects or crashes into walls, there’s a good chance that the ship won’t be damaged enough to be destroyed, but the pilots inside will get scared and stressed, which can ultimately lead to a form of space madness in which they have to contend with delusions: they begin to see disturbing images such as eyes, mouths and even pink elephants around the playing field complete with map malfunction and adaptive triggers via the controller’s DualSense that make the spaceship more difficult to govern. Stress accumulates between one mission and another and the only way to relieve it is to have the pilots go on medical leave and being out of service for a while, which means that our missions will have to be completed by another pilot, perhaps less experienced, who won’t manoeuvre as well, or will use up more fuel. I hadn’t been expecting to have to manage people’s mental health in a Lunar Lander game, but it’s a really cool addition.

lunar lander beyond

Although collecting credits is one of the objectives of Lunar Lander Beyond, regrettably, they have almost no use in the game. Other than of a couple of specific medical procedures to treat pilots, there is virtually no way to spend them. I know what you’re thinking: buying ships! Well no. Unfortunately not. All ships and upgrades are unlocked simply by playing the game, and there is absolutely nothing available for purchase to upgrade the Lander.
It’s a shame. I felt a great need to spend it on something, anything, stuff like the color of the shuttle or maybe adding stupid stickers, a spoiler in the back and the ultra-powerful stereo system.

All of the mechanics in Lunar Lander Beyond are fantastic. Visually, the game is beautiful and the soundtrack pleasant. The levels are all fairly contained and none take more than five or six minutes to complete. This is not a problem; with all kinds of races, obstacle courses and new dangers that can be found on the five game planets, Lunar Lander Beyond always throws new ideas at you quickly and intensely, and never lets you get bored.
Certainly the title’s “Beyond” is not there by chance because this game goes far beyond the original and does so without losing sight of what made that game so memorable. With the strong characterization of the characters and the long campaign full of missions to complete, as well as a background lore to gradually uncover, a fan of Lunar Lander cannot be disappointed by this ambitious sequel.

lunar lander beyond

In conclusion, Lunar Lander Beyond is a fantastic reimagining of a retro classic, with its adrenaline infused and breathtaking gameplay, lots of variety and some interesting management elements.
The stress system is fantastic and adds extra value to what could have simply been a much less imaginative arcade style game.
Separate from the Recharged series, this update revolutionises the simple concept of a 1979 arcade game into a horizontal story-driven adventure where the fate of the entire galaxy may depend on how well you park your spaceship. With dozens of exciting missions and a fantastic cast of characters that really expands on it, the original concept has been transformed into something almost unrecognizable, but definitely unmissable.
Well done Atari, keep up the good work!

Simone Guidi

Uomo di mare, scribacchino, padre. Arrivo su un cargo battente bandiera liberiana e mi installo nella cultura pop anni 80/90. Atariano della prima ora, tutte le notti guardo le stelle e aspetto che arrivino gli UFO.