Moon Lander


Developers Clay Cowgill
Chris Salomon
Publishers Classic Game Creations
Packrat Video Games, LLC
Vectrex carts
Release Date 1997?
2015 (re-release)
Genres Action
Mode Single player only
Media Cartridge
ROM file


Lunar Lander was Atari's first vector graphic arcade game, which required the player to choose an area to land their ship on a lunar surface while contending with gravity and fuel all the while. Moon Lander was inspired by Lunar Lander, although the player had to contend with changing gravity and landscapes, wind, and troublesome satellites as well in the later levels. The game featured cinematics of the player's ship lifting off after a successful landing and has an ending, rather than Lunar Lander ending only once the player would eventually run out of credits (to keep on adding fuel to their ship) or they just flat-out ran out of fuel during a game without adding any more credits to replenish their ship's fuel tank.


It is the player's duty to get their ship home to Earth, which is accomplished by making a safe landing on each moon. The player has to contend with their ship's fuel level, gravity (or lack thereof), wind factor, landscapes and/or satellites in the later levels in order to land.

With the arrival at each new moon, the lander begins at the top of the screen, which needs to be guided to a safe landing spot (defined by bonus multipliers, such as "1X" or "5X", for example). Usually a planet's gravity will start the ship's descent, which the player must apply thrusters to counter the gravity for a safe landing or thrust towards the landscape for several of the levels that have negative gravity (i. e. if the player doesn't apply thrust, their lander will start heading up away from the moon's surface).

Once the player is on a safe landing trajectory, an indicator that they are on the right path usually appears briefly (saying "OK!" on the screen, along with being marked by two musical notes), although that does not always mean the player can just let their lander fall to the surface as it is; land too hard, and they will lose a lander, and if the player runs out of landers the game ends.

There are also other onscreen indicators to help the player, such as if the moon the player is currently on has a wind factor (shown by a flag facing whatever direction the wind is blowing) and there is a fuel gauge as well. Also when the player engages the pause feature, this screen has additional information as to the game's current level number, gravity and wind ratings, and if there is a satellite present during the level.

Satellites will also start appearing after the player has cleared several levels; a regular satellite will just bob up and down over a lunar surface, although a Killer Satellite will home in on the player. Colliding with a satellite will also destroy a lander.

A bonus lander is awarded with every five safe landings.


  • Turn lander (left and right)--buttons one and two
  • Pause--button three
  • Use thrust--button four and up on joystick or D-pad


Successful landing--100 points plus fuel units remaining times the multiplier the player has landed on


  • This is one of the bigger Vectrex homebrews, being 32K in size.
  • Whenever the player makes a successful landing, a few bars of "The Star Spangled Banner" will play, and much more of the piece will play if the player can make it through all 31 levels and beat the game. Some of "Auld Lang Syne" will play at the "game over" screen as well.
  • All of the moons have a name, some of which are named after various Vectrex and/or video game alumni, such as "Outer Dondzila" (in regards to homebrewer John Dondzila, plus he also gets a shoutout as "John D" if the player makes it to the end on that credits screen) and "Spike the P" (retro gamer/hacker Spike the Percussionist). Others can be humorous, such as "Haagen Daze", presumably a pun of the Haagen-Dazs ice cream brand.
  • During the game's attract mode, there is speech synthesis of a brief countdown, along with showing all the objects of the game (landing bonus multipliers, satellites) and programmer credits.
  • Individual Vectrexes can have slightly different displays, which is why sometimes the moon lander can appear to dip below a lunar surface without being destroyed.
  • Moon Lander was originally available through the Vectrex carts website, then later on the Classic Game Creations site once John Dondzila took over the site from Mark Shaker. Dondzila ceased production of all games at the end of 2013 due to a lack of time and being able to work his day job; however, Packrat Video Games, LLC re-released the game in April, 2015.

Links/reviewEdit reviewEdit

Getting a new Vectrex homebrew is always a treat, especially the ones that are just as, if not even BETTER, than the original GCE-released games from back in the heyday. Hell, I’ve yet to play a bad homebrew m’self, and Moon Lander is no exception, especially since it blows away it’s inspiration of the Atari vector coin-op of Lunar Lander. No, this isn’t an old memory playing me false - I last played it less than three years ago (at the time of this writing) at a gaming expo - so, trust me, this game has a better variety and challenge, rather than landing on the same three spots over and over again.

The game is a real treat from the beginning of seeing one of the best homebrew box covers yet to the digitized voice countdown during the demo, along with cool Russian-sounding music to the cinematics (and taking advantage of the Vectrex’s excellent fading capabilities) of your ship blasting off from a successful landing and having the landscape fade away.

The premise is simple: try to land your...uh, lander on the moon without running out of fuel or crashing it. This is more difficult than it probably sounds here, since your lander dips a little below the landscape before actually landing. So chances are you’re going to blow yourself up quite a few times until you get the hang of it.

Rather than in Lunar Lander, with every successful landing, you’re treated to a new landscape on Moon Lander, some of which has tricky navigation in order to land. Gravity pulls also vary from planet to planet, requiring new strategies then, along with - reverse gravity - (you’re pulled UP towards the atmosphere, rather than *down*), and then freakin’ satellites are also a problem, since colliding with them means death, and then KILLER satellites make a beeline for you as well; argh!

And of course, just like with the original, you’re constantly running out of fuel...granted, you’ll get a full fuel tank with each new moon, but it kind of makes you wonder why this is constantly happening in the wonderful future where space travel is obviously well underway. Perhaps car companies that make the gas-guzzling SUVs nowadays make these landers, or Microsoft continued it’s hugely gigantic growth to the point of making spaceships, which you have to constantly land to upgrade your ship, or else it’ll constantly crash (heh; geddit?).

There’s not many sounds in this game, and they’re not bad, but several musical interludes make up for them. The graphics are ok, but the controls are perfect, and the game also has a welcome pause feature as well. About the only thing that I don’t like about it is that, at times, you might feel the need to shoot the hell out of something to change the pace and game objective, but that won’t happen. There’s also 32 levels in this game (if I remember correctly), which chances are most of us aren’t going to get that far (the highest I’ve ever gotten to is about half that number, if even that far!). There are cheats to allow you to beat the game though, if you can’t do it on your own.

Well THAT, plus this is the only game Clay Cowgill has made at the time of this writing, which, if his games are going to be this stellar, it’s too bad he doesn’t have more time on his hands to make any more (probably due to his business of Ground Kontrol, a mostly classics arcade, is open until 1 a. m. [!], even on weekdays!). And that’s a shame.

Until then, you can snag this from Mark Shaker at for the mere steal of only $10 U.S. (plus shipping). It’s worth the journey, and you won’t have to stock up on Tang and dried meal packets in order to enjoy it.

Score 8/10

Review written by Darryl

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