Cyber Lander: Mission Space

Test your skills as a space module pilot as you navigate the treacherous terrain of alien landscapes. Two modes allow you to hone your skills in basic play before showing off your abilities in advanced mode. Coordination, finesse and nerves of steel are required to get top score. Do you have what it takes?

I suppose it's a testament to the joy of its basic gameplay design which still has people crafting Lunar Lander clones some 30 years after the original arcade game's release. Using then impressive vector graphics, Atari's classic video game had people fighting gravity to successfully maneuver a small lunar lander craft over hills and into caves in order to land at specially marked segments of flat ground. Each segment has a bonus multiplier based on the difficulty of the landing, and a soft touch earns the player a score reward while bumpy landings deduct from the full point value of the landing, noting that the hard descent has resulted in some (non-gameplay impacting) system failure. The player is limited by fuel which is restocked after a successful landing and will cause the craft to crash once it runs out. Lunar Lander is a very basic game, but the gameplay offered was unique and challenging, making it just as playable and fun today as it was then.

So, the question I think then becomes do we need Cyber Lander: Mission Space? The most obvious benefit 30-plus years has brought is the visual improvement Cyber Lander offers over its arcade grandfather. Whereas Lunar Lander is composed of simple vector lines on a two color display, Cyber Lander portrays a beautifully textured moon with visible valleys and scars in its texturing. Instead of simple, unremarkable flat strips to land upon, we now have detailed moon bases complete with sizable landing pads to descend upon. The stark, grayscale look of the environment feels appropriate, and I do appreciate the addition of side thrusters to visually explain the lander's rotation. The starry sky and nebula details provide for a nice backdrop for the action, and overall while Cyber Lander will hardly impress anyone with its visual prowess, it's certainly a commendable update to its obvious inspiration.

Cyber Lander does lack the zooming camera work of the original gravity landing game, and there is an invisible ceiling marking the vertical limit, but neither of these changes are likely to be noticed by players of the game nor detract from the nice graphics seen here. I would have liked just a bit of animation somewhere; just because the moon is dead doesn't mean it should look the part, and I would have enjoyed seeing some movement or lights around the bases and background. Much as with most Lunar Lander clones, Cyber Lander is a very flat game. This is good as the gameplay is decidely 2-D, but that doesn't mean it needs to sport such a lifeless look. That superficial want aside, I do think the game is made too easy and may potentially turn off fans of the original. While Cyber Lander offers an advanced mode of play in which the craft rotates with the side thrusters, rotating as in the original game, a successful landing is much easier to come by here with no apparent point deduction for a harder fall (although the points awarded still scales with the difficulty of the landing). Cyber Lander also appears to be limited to one moonscape in which the player alternates landing upon the same five pads as opposed to Lunar Lander's continuously changing terrain, which may or may not be a plus depending on whether a player prefer the variety of the original game or hate its start-and-stop resetting nature.

Cyber Edge Studios has done a nice job with Cyber Lander, but while I can see the improvements in graphics and sound appealing to a newcomer, I still find that I'd rather stick with Lunar Lander. I like the improved graphics and enjoy listening to the game's soundtrack, but at the same time I also rather be playing the Atari arcade classic. Cyber Lander is well worth playing at least to experience the unique thrills of fighting against the fall of gravity found in such games, and a local high score list is available for those players who get pulled into the game trying to prove to themselves that they can complete one landing, then a harder one, then getting all five pads, and so on and so forth. It's an enjoyable style of game, and those free from nostalgia should feel right at home with Cyber Lander and its take on a time tested genre.

★★★☆☆
July 30, 2010
July 26, 2010 | 80 points
Developer | Video N/A | Download

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