Lunar Module 3D delivers quite the immersive lunar experience

Posted: July 20, 2009 in Sim

With today being the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, it’s easy to think about what it would be like to be an astronaut. My guess is most of us at one point or another dreamed of what it would be like travel the stars. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to maneuver a ship on another celestial body. Lunar Module 3D does a terrific job of providing a part game, part simulation experience on your iPhone/iPod Touch device. With an intuitive set of controls, a soothing soundtrack, and a lunar surface based on actual lunar photos, the game delivers quite an immersive experience.

Visually, the environment is reminiscent of the moon photos we’ve seen—desolate, barren, lifeless—yet full of character from the dunes and hills to the caverns and pits. The fact that the game also uses real mission audio only reinforces that feeling of exploration and awe as you maneuver the lunar module. Lunar Module 3D takes you through 9 missions (the first 4 are unlocked) through actual Apollo 11, 14, 16, and 17 landing sites. Each site has a series of landing and refueling spots, and depending on well you effectively maneuver and efficiently use fuel, gold or silver medals are awarded that unlock additional levels. These missions start out relatively simple with the Sea of Tranquility to the more dangerous Tycho Crater.

Landing sites are illustrated in red while refueling platforms are in blue. A mini-map is provided that shows the lunar module’s position relative to each of the sites. A fuel bar located down the left side of the screen indicates available fuel, while the altitude and speed gauges are located on the right side. These gauges will be essential because if the running too fast, the speed gauges appear in red and green if the speed is appropriate. A camera button on the bottom left side serves as a guide to the next nearest landing site.

I’ve tried other lunar module games, but the controls tend to extremely difficult and not as responsive as I would like. I’m all for the real experience, but I also don’t want frustrating controls. In Lunar Module 3D, the steering and braking are accelerometer based with the thrust button located in the bottom right corner for propulsion. And they work as advertised. However, that doesn’t make this game any less challenging.

The in-game audio which is usually at the beginning and the completion of a mission are a nice touch, and really provide that NASA experience. Controlling the module requires nifty maneuvers, ability to read angles, and a light touch. Often what you’ll find is that a little boost here and a slight steer is all you need because the lunar module is traveling through zero gravity. The game does an admirable job of emulating what the conditions are like in such an environment. If you’re running too hot, there’s a pretty good chance that either lunar module will overshoot the target site, crash into ground or fly outside of the maximum height allowed meaning the module is now off into space. Gold medals are earned by based on successfully touching down on landing sites and keeping refueling to a minimum.

What the game could use is a variety of other mission types such as re-entry so you’re not only maneuvering around, but also trying other abilities such as learning to land back on Earth without burning up.

Lunar Module 3D is not alien-filled shooting game so if your expectations are for moon base massacres, this is not for you. However, if you want mellow gameplay where patience is required, Lunar Module 3D will provide just the right experience. For the variety and intuitive control scheme, this is easily the best of the bunch.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommended for space sim enthusiasts and amateur lunar module drivers; provides a relaxing experience if you’re not too worried about landing)

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