Moon Review

I tend to use the site Glyde for a ton of my impulse buys, because the price is cheap, and they sell both new and used titles.  It is basically a less jerkish, more pro-consumer version of Gamestop.  So I ended up finding this little title for cheap, and picked it up.  From developer Renegade Kid, who I know as the guys who made Mutant Mudds, got their start making FPSes for the DS, with this being their second one.  And as somebody who always thought a simplistic DPS could work well on the DS, can this result in a forgotten gem, or is the idea of an FPS on the DS a very stupid idea in reality?  You know the drill!

Moon Review
Release Date: 13/1/2009
Platform: DS
Developer: Renegade Kid
Publisher: Mastiff
Price I Paid: $9

Why would you pick a name as broad as Moon for your game? No subtitle or anything, no extra words at all? Nobody had trouble searching for the game? Whatever, the year is 2058, and man has several bases on the Earth’s moon, which they are planning on colonizing while preparing the same for Mars. You are some guy named Ed Kane, a military person who was called in to investigate an anomaly. And we know the plot, aliens wreck your stuff, you have an officer telling you what is going on, and it is up to you to save the world. This is textbook stuff, but then we got to the truth that aliens have been kidnapping humans and smelting them into tubes of… Stuff, that increases a person’s vitality and makes them more athletic. Other than that, I could barely make it out. There are disjointed boxes of text that tell you some backstory, but interrupting an FPS with text never really bodes well.

But hey, Painkiller had a moronic story, and it is considered to be one of the best FPSes in the past decade. And did anyone care about the plot of Doom? No, they wanted to shoot demons in the face! But those only represent one third of what I consider to be the FPS paradigm. On one hand, you have your Serious Sam and Borderlands, games about the fun of the frantic shooter gameplay. On the other, you have your Half-Life 2 and Bioshock, games with a sense of survival and carry a strong narrative. And the other one is the multiplayer focused games, mostly having to do with war, the most boring subject matter ever made, unless it is in space, but space makes everything better. So where would I place Moon? Well, at the beginning, it felt a lot slower paced and had a more narrative focus than the plot would have me believe. But by the end of it, I was fighting an indescribable alien by shooting circular explosions at him.

So we have an indecisive title that wants to marry these two warring cousins, while not bothering with the one who was raised by children who consider war to be the ultimate joy. As such, I am a little conflicted when describing the gameplay. You only have seven weapons, ammo is limited for the most part, and there are exploration elements for upgrades. But on the other hand, enemies drop a ton of ammo, take the default weapons hits like you are shooting them with a BB gun, and they are floating metal eyes, golems, and robotic spiders. And speaking of the default weapon, for something called the Super Assault Rifle, it has a hard time killing rat sized bugs in more than 3 shots. I appreciate how it has infinite ammo, but that just made me try to use it for the majority of the game. I only used the other weapons during the last chapters of this game’s 17. Oh yes, and when a chapter that takes me nearly an hour is followed by one that takes me about 3 minutes, you might want to fix something.

But back to the exploration, the areas are linear corridors that occasionally have a small door that you main character cannot get inside, since he can only move, shoot, open doors, pick up ammo and ammo upgrades, and open doors. So Mr. Kane needs to find an RC car called a RAD, which looks like an alien form when you are controlling it, that can stun enemies, and temporarily flip switches. You use it a lot, but even during the five or so dungeons in the game, this puzzle was used to death. I understand maintaining the usefulness of an item, but I would like to see one area where the only secrets aren’t hidden behind an orange door that needs to have a switch shot before I can get my alien artifacts for a VR mission I’ll never play.

There are also vehicle sections, where you drive around in a car with a laser gun, and it controls like a literal brick. Despite being on the moon, it is controls like it is very heavy, and just doesn’t want to turn, instead it want to run into yellow indestructible mine put out by your colleagues. And we only see this three times, making i feel like it could’ve been cut, and all we’d lose would be a chapter or two. And speaking of the chapters, why is the boss a chapter separate from the dungeon? They average at about 5 minutes, and just make the game look longer than it actually is.

I also have gripes about the results contain something known as merits, but it never says what they are. I missed three during my run, but I thoroughly explored the area, well what I could access. There is often an inaccessible area on the map that just holds a set piece, meaning that you can never really clear out a map. It has no real purpose, but why even include it the set piece area on the map? I feel really annoyed when I beat a boss, but can’t clear their room, since there is a foot high ledge around the area that most of them sit in.

The enemies are pretty run of the mill, as stated earlier, and only fire projectiles that are pretty much always in a pattern, and only get annoying when you are in a cramped area and you are hoping that you pink space suit steps on a full heal item, which looks just like the minor heal items, which look just like a certain type of ammo. Seriously, this thing is the difference between dying and beating the bosses with your eyes closed. You are down to your last hit, step on some compressed human turned into juice, and are back to 100% health.

Speaking of bosses, these are some of the worst bosses I’ve fought in a while. The bosses are blatantly recycled, so I’m not spoiling much. There is one robot with four arms that you first encounter around columns, so you hide behind them and take potshots at his flashing red weak points. The you meet him again, but you have no columns, and it spins around to fire in every direction, and he kicked my buns like they were stale egg rolls. Then there was a rotating column that shot the same large and easy to touch balls of energy that every enemy uses, but if you stay back, his balls evaporate and your assault rifle can still hit him. And when you take out all four panels covering him, it is a giant yellow pillar that shoots four thin lasers at once, but you can still hide from them. Or at least I hope so, since before I developed this strategy, I had to travel the preceeding area 4 times because there is no save point before this bass.

And in a later area, you need to fight three of them as separate minibosses. Except they no longer spin, and now toss grenades that have a stupidly large range. So it is again with the potshots between those and the three balls it fires. And then you fight one again, as the second to last boss. Only difference is that he has more health. But the worst boss needs to be the rolling one. Now, I defeat this boss in many ways. I got his face stuck between terrain and fire at it with your assault rifle. Then I had it ram into me, stuck in a loop, but never actually dealing damage, when it should’ve cut off a third of my health. And I simply circle strafe around it, while it did not roll at all. This is what you call greatly designed enemy AI. It is the kind of stuff that allows me to shoot odd a spider turrets feet while it is behind is corner, and somehow kill it. And a lot of bosses are protected by an eyeball door, kind of like the one in Metroid. Except this guy takes 3 minutes to kill, while I am standing still, holding the L button, not even touching the bottom screen to aim. This is what you call a pointless obstacle, since if I just use my infinite Assault Rifle that destroys its projectiles, I cannot be defeated by this thing.

Speaking of Metroid, there are three instances where Kane needs to escape a base or get to a location before a timer dings. This is a staple of the Metroid series, often done after the final boss, but they do not do that here, and there is no tension or challenge to leaving an area after you just did that twice with a lot of time left to go. The first time was pretty cool, with enemies firing at you, and you tried to keep them back while making it out of the area. But seeing the playable character carefully get out of a land rover is just boring, and distracts from the fact that you are being timed. These are like the Moon traveling, pointless and forgotten come the end.

So there is a lot of pointless crap, the difficulty curve is like a rollercoaster, and the shooting in unsatisfying, but how about the audio-visual stuff? The game does indeed pull of some of the best 3D on the DS, but there is a very notable fog, enemy filching is hard to notice, and everywhere looks the same. And as for technical stuff, it is impressive based on the hardware, but there is so much technology littering the corridors, that I was actually killed over 15 times by a boss, just because the wall was filled with holes that led to square pillars trapping me between some lasers. Just looking at it while the game is in motion, makes my eyes drawn away from the scenery, and therefore the world, destroying any hope of immersion. As for the music, it could work, but it dissolves into soulless electronic garbage that is just noise while you kill enemies. Early on, there was atmosphere, a sense of powerlessness, but it is hard to feel weak with a space rocket launcher!

As a whole, Moon is a mix between the run and gun shooters of old, and the resourceful shooter of yesteryear, but the actual shooting lacks any weight. There is a stupidly jaggid difficulty curve, and so much unneeded crap is used to fatten this game up into 8 hours. The game is also pretty ugly and would be better if there was nearly no music, just ambiance noise. It is certainly interesting, but that means crap unless the product is still moderate quality. Moon is certainly worth observing, but I can not say that it is fun. There is a glimmer of some better game between its cracks. There are good ideas, but compensation due to the DS’ limitations have resulted in a slightly below average product. It was worth playing, but then it declined far into mediocrity, if not deeper.

19/40
Subpar
The game is below average and has little going for it. There are the makings of something good, but it’s hampered by poor execution by the creators.

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