Moon Review for Nintendo DS

Moon Review for Nintendo DS

Human Cola…Yum

Developer Renegade Kid made some waves in the handheld gaming world with its killer debut in fall 2007. The grim and gory launch of Dementium: The Ward sealed the deal for gamers seeking a dark and gruesome first-person survival horror adventure on the DS – a platform previously lacking in mature content for older players. Despite some minor design missteps (the save system was a real bastard), that game was technically proficient and chillingly enjoyable. With its latest effort, Moon, the team has pushed its first-person shooter engine and the DS hardware to the limits.

Moon screenshot

Moon is built using a modified version of the game engine used in Dementium, but the two games are very different in terms of visual themes, gameplay, and presentation. Moon is more of a medium-tempo, straightforward first-person shooter than the developer’s first effort. It retains a more deliberate and steady, adventure-oriented pacing that sets it apart from the higher-speed action of a title like Metroid Prime Hunters. That’s not to say the action in Moon is lacking; it’s just more balanced. The desire to explore the immersive environments provides the main means to drive progress, while blasting anything that stands in your way – breathing or otherwise – is just part of the fun.

Like Renegade Kid’s DS premiere, Moon focuses squarely on offering a compelling single player campaign rooted heavily in the realm of science fiction. The game opens in the year 2058, as a small team of military grunts led by Major Edward Kane land on the grey lunar surface, where the U.S. government has constructed a scientific base. Following the discovery of a mysterious hatch in the Moon’s surface, Kane is called in to investigate. The sudden disappearance of team members and unusual energy readings are clear signs that he’s in for a bumpy ride. The deeper you explore in the strange technology-laden caverns beneath the Moon’s surface, the more unsettling and eerie the story becomes. Much of the actual narrative plays out in the form of messages gleaned from computer terminals that slowly peel back layers of the plot one piece at a time, though you’ll also communicate with surviving team members. There are some interesting twists worked in for good measure, but the storytelling frequently takes a back-seat to the exploration and action elements.

Working your way through the labyrinthine depths of the Moon’s subterranean domain is not without its perils. As you explore numerous levels filled with sinister alien technology hidden deep below the lunar surface, you’ll go toe-to-toe against myriad mechanized defense systems and extra-terrestrial combatants that have nothing but ill intention towards you. The lack of variety in the types of enemies you’ll face is one of the more disappointing aspects of Moon. You’ll fight many of the same robot drones over and over again, and the aliens themselves are pretty standard humanoids with different kinds of blasters. There are definitely some exciting boss battles, but a few are recycled far more times than necessary. While it’s not a game breaker, a little more creativity with foes would have gone a long way.

Moon screenshot

Slain adversaries drop ammo and health at a reasonable rate, and they don’t re-spawn. Jumping into battle with guns blazing for brief, intense periods will give way to moments of calm that allow you to take a closer look at your surroundings and gather any spoils of war left behind. There’s a decent variety of standard weapons to pick up at appropriate intervals (these come in hands against the numerous boss battles), and you’ll find health and ammo upgrades tucked away in different corners of the map. For the most part, exploration is generally linear, but you’ll often have to branch off from the main path to pick up keys or accomplish tasks in order to proceed.

Two excellent additions also change up the gameplay to help keep it from growing monotonous over time. At various points in the adventure, you’ll pop out to explore the Moon’s surface in LOLA, an armed lunar rover. You’ll basically zoom around the surface, while maneuvering through mines and blasting robot drones. This aspect of the gameplay could have been expanded on a tad more, but it’s still a needed change of pace that works well. It’s important to note the game includes an easily avoidable glitch that’ll force you to restart – don’t park LOLA on the garage lift located beyond the waypoint the first time you drive. Leave it at the blockade and proceed on foot; you’ll be fine.

Moon screenshot

The Remote Access Droid (RAD), a handy robot pal that stays in your inventory, is used frequently throughout the game to deal with puzzle elements including bringing down meddlesome force field barriers and collecting hidden items. When you engage RAD, Kane drops to one knee wherever you’re standing, and the camera transfers to the little droid. You’ll use it to crawl around in tunnels, stun enemies with its blaster, and unlock inaccessible areas. The inclusion of RAD to further deepen the gameplay is a clever move.

Moon screenshot

Successful first-person shooters on the DS seem to tend to stick with a tried and true, mouse-look-style control setup, and Moon doesn’t buck the trend. The D-Pad moves you forward and side-to-side, the L trigger fires your weapon, and moving the stylus around on the touch screen lets you aim and look around in 360 degrees – it works much like playing a first-person shooter on a PC. The first-person view resides on the top screen, and the touch interface features a mini-map, a context sensitive examine button, and a weapons inventory. The controls are smooth and very responsive, and switching weapons on the fly is painless. They also translate well when you’re controlling your RAD or driving LOLA.

The lack of multiplayer features is lamentable, yet the solo experience is the big draw here. The level of elbow grease put into making the title shine and setting the proper tone is evident from the moment you turn the power on. With a solid foundation already laid out, Renegade Kid was able to focus on implementing a more ambitious game design packed with more bells and whistles. The 3D visuals are some of the best to be found on the DS, and there are many subtle and not-so-subtle details – like unusual machinery, lit-up computer monitors, and electronic panels worked into the game environments. The only complaint in this area is the levels tend to blend together at times. Each area features a different color theme and layout, yet you’ll often feel like your traversing the same corridors.

Moon is by no means perfect; from the lack of variety in enemy types to the repetitive nature of the core gameplay and terrain types, there is room for improvement. That said, it’s a substantially engaging and eerie, sci-fi action adventure that’s worth sinking some time into.

The visuals are amazing. 4.5 Control
The tight mouse-look controls work great. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Lots of creepy sound effects. The moody industrial-esque music is good but can be overbearing at times. 4.0

Play Value
A multiplayer mode would be nice, but the main game (though short) is a good romp. Unlockable bonus episodes add some additional play time.

4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Eerie first-person shooter experience mixed with elements of adventure.
  • An improved version of the Renegade Engine featuring highly detailed environments and optimized gameplay.
  • A deep sci-fi story that unfolds in episodes.

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