Moon Diver (XBLA) REVIEW

In the late 2000’s, Europe has turned into a demonic neon wasteland.  Encouraging 4-player team work, Moon Diver will have the player run, jump, slice, hang, and wall climb through a series of repetitive levels filled monotonous drones from a 2D side-scrolling perspective.

Combat is functional but very plain and basic. Most enemies just stand around waiting to be killed. At times, the screen can be flooded with enemies but each basic attack will only hit one enemy at a time, meaning if there are 3 enemies stacked on each other, the player will only attack the enemy that is on the top layer. This can make combat confusing, make the player feel overwhelmed, and feels cheap (but perhaps I am just used to Metal Slug).  However, many magic abilities are designed to attack multiple enemies simultaneously, making ability use a critical part of the game. It is just frustrating to forcefully cut your way through filler enemies to get to the enemies who are picking you off from a screen length away.

Each kill earns experience points and when enough have been collected, a level-up will allow the player to distribute one point to a specific stat.  Unfortunately, increasing stats (power, health, magic) is beyond slow; only the most dedicated players will actually grow their character to levels that actually make a significant difference during gameplay. Alternatively, if time is taken to level up, some abilities can be exploited.

Moon Diver not only encourages multiplayer, it practically demands it. Finding three other pals will not only create a more enjoyable social experience, but it will bring slightly more organization to the chaos that is Moon Diver as well as generate a fighting chance to the game’s arduous difficulty.  Co-op play can also allow for a joint-magic attack, but it is a cumbersome system since each player will need to equip the same technique.  The drop-in drop-out style of multiplayer is great, but the joint-ability techniques make playing with randoms uncoordinated. Also, there is practically no need to use the trigger button slide and duck abilities; it seems like a lost opportunity.

The Strider-style of gameplay is entertaining for a while when played with multiple friends, some of the bosses are cool and the visual art style is polished. But all the positives are neutralized by the unbalanced difficulty – most levels are too long, filled with stupid AI drones, but still offer the occasional cheap one-hit kills (although it is a nice twist to attack fallen comrades to release them from death’s grip instead of using a Life spell).  The presentation is also very Japanese, with a story that is difficult to follow especially since the plot moves through black screens with white text cue cards.  The game’s story is basically one giant WTF moment.

If you are looking for a single player experience, then you will want to look elsewhere. But even if you and three friends are looking at tackling this as your next co-op game, be warned that the slow pace of customization/level-up points requires a deep amount of dedication.  Only the hardcore should apply; everyone else will probably be happier playing Castle Crashers.

Not As Good As: other 4-player online beat’em ups

Also Try: Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii)

Wait For It: the next true Strider sequel

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