They're making a story-driven sequel to Lunar Lander, the 1979 Atari arcade game where all you do is land on the moon

 A red-haired woman pilots a ship.
A red-haired woman pilots a ship.

As someone who grew up with an Atari 2600 it sure is nice to be able to talk about an upcoming Atari game with positive anticipation. That's how I feel about Lunar Lander Beyond, a forthcoming sequel to a game so old it's developed a pot belly and taken up jogging.

Atari's original Lunar Lander came out in 1979, and was Atari's first game to use vector graphics. It was also one of the first two games registered with the United States Copyright Office, the other being Asteroids. While there had been several preceding games inspired by the Apollo moon landing, Lunar Lander's touchy controls and limited fuel kept the tension high (and the coins in your pocket low), which made it particularly memorable. It inspired several follow-ups, including a 3D one called Lander released by Psygnosis in 1999.

Lunar Lander Beyond, which is being developed by Cris Tales studio Dreams Uncorporated, keeps the 2D view and touchy controls, but bolts on an entire plot. You're a captain working for the unscrupulous Pegasus Aerospace—one of their executives calls your crew a layer of "human insulation" who protect the cargo—when a galactic disaster forces you to become a rescue worker. The trailer above sums it up, and it's delightful how the dramatic anime characters are juxtaposed with gameplay footage of a dinky lander hovering through power-ups and trying not to touch the sides.

A demo of Lunar Lander Beyond has been available since the October Steam Next Fest, and it lets you play several tutorial missions and collect some upgrades for your lander. There are 12 upgrades on the menu, including a Synaptic Booster and Tractor Vortex, though I can't imagine myself using the Turbo Boost without immediately colliding with a meteor. Pilots als level up and gain traits, and you have to manage their stress to prevent them from suffering hallucinations that apparently include "celestial pink elephants".

The full campaign will have 30 missions and let you fly four ships, but in just this demo the tone comes across clear. It's a parody of modern corporate greed on an interplanetary scale, with a dose of space mystery to give it that sense of wonder. I can't wait to play the full thing. There's no release date yet, but you can try the demo on Steam right now.