After decades in flight, the starship Dedalus has finally arrived at the start system Wolf 359 only to find little more than debris. Earth-sized planets that the crew had once hoped to colonize have been reduced to asteroids by thousands of alien machines. All that survives are two gas giants and the former moon of one of the planets.
The latter is christened Frontier Alfa, but a scientific investigation misfires when ship and crew are captured.
Alfa is populated by Remusians and Roboforms. The Remusians are bug-eyed humanoids who created the Roboforms as their servants, only to see them rebel and pursue their own objectives - 'explore, produce, make profit'. It's the Roboforms who've captured the Dedalus. Some humans are rumoured to have escaped and set up their own secret colonies, but for the majority a life of slavery seems inevitable.
You're determined to escape, though, and have worked so hard the Roboforms have given you a trading licence and an X-terminus freighter. It turns out Alfa is very popular among pirates who appreciate the Roboforms' habit of selling anything to anyone with no questions asked. In fact, your final objective is to earn enough money to buy every factory, powerplant, moonbase and Remusbase on Alfa. This is no easy task with hordes of pirates constantly on the lookout for a lightly armed freighter to hijack.
The X-terminus is a curious beast which is extremely stable, making rocksteady turns without ever banking. It also have two separate engines; one for manoeuvring (in colonies and during combat), the other for high-speed travel between colonies.
Unfortunately, the latter engine automatically shuts down if another ship approaches, so you can't outrun the pirates.
The freighter comes with a forward-firing gun, plus homing missiles and mines (dropped from the rear). Additional weapons which can be bought include a drone to distract enemy fire and a stunner (which briefly paralyses enemy forces). You can also buy solar cells (to reduce power consumption), extra shield units (a maximum of four) and attractors (which attract massive sandworms to be captured, and then sold).
Most of this hardware is essential for a long life trading between the various colonies. Bases only have a couple of rooms generally, but besides the trading computer there's occasionally a pub where information can be obtained. There are eighteen types of object to buy and sell, ranging in price from three to 7,453 lunariums. As you progress, you can be offered missions - there are eight in all. You are also given the option of saving the game at base computers.
Moonfall is an interesting Elite variant with a hint of Mercenary thrown in. As in Elite the basic aim is making money via trading, buying low and selling high.
It's fairly simplistic, but excitement is added by pirate attacks. Once an enemy ship comes onto radar the boost engine cuts out until it has been defeated - often, if you take too long, another ship will join the fray.
Combat is again fairly simplistic: turn to face the enemy, blaze away with lasers and chase when he runs (a nice touch is the mines dropped by fleeing ships to make pursuit difficult). Sadly, the inability to bank gives an unrealistic feel which dampens the action somewhat - Elite was more exciting.
Where Moonfall does score is in the graphics which are simply gorgeous on the C64. As the day progresses the sun rises and falls, the sky lightens and darkens going from turquoise to pink to blank.
At high speed, mountains whip by, taking you closer to a varied assortment of bases, most glittering with atmospheric lights. Enemy ships have a bit of variety and move very quickly - it's great seeing missiles detonate on the sides of ships and when ships finally do explode the scattering of debris is impressive.
After the solid 3D of Space Rogue the graphics aren't state-of-the-art, but their speed and atmosphere help compensate. Furthermore, there's a brilliant range of sound FX, everything from the basic engine drone to lightning storms to explosions are top-notch.
Amiga Moonfall isn't in quite the same class: nicely shaded mountains, attractive spaceships and good FX are nice here, but after Midwinter, F-29 and so on, it seems rather limited. Another disappointment is that the eight missions secreted away in the C64 game haven't been increased for the Amiga.
It's an okay game, but at £25 it seems to lack ambition, and polish - something which the C64 game has in abundance. Attractive graphics here compensate for somewhat repetitive gameplay, contributing to an involving atmosphere which should have you playing for many long nights.
Moonfall was written on the C64 and it shows, oozing quality presentation from every pixel. The superb skyscapes and varied bases establish an involving sense of being there which is perfectly backed up by a good range of sound effects.
The spaceships are wireframe, but move very quickly and can come in very close, very fast. Although the system is quite happy throwing two ships, plus mines and cargo at you, unlike the Amiga enemy attacks aren't so frequent that they become aggravating. On the C64 it's quite possible to complete a few trading runs without being forced to defeat an armada of pirates. But when combat does happen it's good fun, not quite as ambitious as Elite, but faster.
The heart of the game isn't incredibly complex, and although the underground rooms give the game a Mercenary-feel, there aren't that many of them and all you're looking for are computers to log onto in search of hints on good trading bases and, of course, missions. Eight missions aren't that many, but they seem good fun and upgrading your ranking to access them adds to addiction.
Though not in the same league as the Gold Medal-winning disk-only Space Rogue, Moonfall is well worth giving a go if you haven't got a disk drive or simply love the Elite game-style.
On the Amiga, there's an attractive and rapid 3D system, but here the lack of banking is pretty poor and the nowadays almost essential exterior views are sadly lacking. It's a slick conversion of the 8-bit original but adds nothing new and doesn't compare to the massive scale of say, FOFT.
Ten save positions per blank disk and good paper map.
Some nice colour graduation and lightsourcing on enemy ships. Fast 3D. Bases small and disappointing though.
Okay title tune, nice in-game FX although laser is a little crude.
Relatively easy to get into, with lots of combat.
A big task, but graphic variety is minimal, too much combat can get tiring and eight missions aren't much nowadays.
Not bad, but a bit dated.
Save/load option, single load and nice map.
Great sky and landscape, plus attractive, quick wireframe for spaceships and bases.
Superb engine noise and various other spot FX.
Relatively simple, and good looks make addiction easy.
Trading could get repetitive, but upgrading ship and rank for missions adds spice.
A massive challenge.