Shooting The Moon
Developed from the ground up specifically for the DS hardware, Moon is a well respected follow up from Renegade Kid’s first DS game, Dementium, despite having very apparent gameplay flaws.
Moon trades in Dementium’s demonic enemies for a more sci-fi alien inspired tone and was created with one goal in mind: push the DS to its limits. Graphically, this FPS is one of the most impressive titles in the entire DS library. The silky smooth 60 frames per second engine makes aiming with the stylus incredibly accurate. It really is something every DS owner should experience and other developers should take note on what the system is capable of.
Even though the game is an impressive visual wonder with its speedy frame rate and pre-rendered cutscenes, there are still some game design flaws that have not really been fixed since Dementium. First off, Moon has many noticeable differences as compared to Dementium. Instead of being solely a FPS, Moon is more of an adventure game built with Metroid inspirations. The goal of each stage is a lot more than just blasting away every enemy you encounter. Instead, getting from Point A to Point B usually involves flipping Switches, activating buttons or powering down locks and shields. Completing these challenges are typically augmented by a slew of enemies standing in your way.
The first hour or two of Moon is probably going to be its most entertaining as the player’s first impression of this game will be welcomed thanks to the great game engine and unique environment. However, after the novelty wears off, Moon’s game design problems really start to the take over as enemies and puzzles repeat continuously. One of the first enemies you encounter is a floating pod security droid and this little guy will basically make an appearance in just about every other room in the game. In order to get past a force field, you will have to use the same remote control car to sneak in a tunnel, work your way around, and power down the system. The game reuses textures and level design throughout the game too. These problems really make combat and adventuring repetitive to a flaw.
Enemies and level design will repeat, but the game tries to keep things interesting by offering new weapons when you need them most. Just when you are getting tired of using the same weapon over and over, the game will give you a new way to kill the security pod robots. This creates a better sense of pacing, but still lacks in the variety of enemies to take down. Yes, there are boss battles, but they are basically clones of each other or are just a bigger form of some other enemy in the game.
Despite having repetition errors, there are several new welcomed features. Hands down, the biggest game adjustment over Dementium is the lack of magically respawning enemies. This means once you kill all the floating security bots in a room, you will never have to take them down again. This reduces the constant worry of running out of ammo and getting yourself killed before the next check point. However, this fact can bring unbalance to the game as a player can simply progress through this game one room at a time. Save points, similar to any Metroid game, will save your progress as well as restore all lost health. But this gives players a means to “cheat” by clearing out a room, backtracking to the save to regain lost health, then double back again to the next room and repeat. In comparison, I think this non-respawning system makes the game a lot more user friendly and less frustrating even though it’s still not perfect.
Using the remote controlled car to solve puzzles is mandatory, but the game also deviates on occasion to allow you to take control of a lunar lander. Traveling in this space car is a great way to break up the typical FPS gameplay, but it ultimately suffers from poor play control. With icy controls, steering this vehicle is more trouble than it needs to be, especially when trying to navigate through a mine field or if you get stuck against a wall or corner.
Just like Dementium, there is still no multiplayer option whatsoever. This is a huge missed opportunity because an engine this smooth absolutely screams to be taken online to frag your friends. As big as a bummer as this is, it should be noted that this game takes advantage of the optional DS Rumble Pak. Simply adding this feature to the game is one more indicator that the developers really want to utilize the fully functionality of the system. Using this accessory does bring another dimension to the game, but there I noticed a bug when using the remote controlled car. If you move and shoot at the same time, the rumble function seems like it can’t keep up and shuts off altogether. Although this is a minor bug that doesn’t really crush the gameplay experience, there is a game crashing bug that the developers seem to know about. When you first have access to drive around in the lunar lander, there is a possibility to crash the game if you park it in the wrong spot. It is a small instance that only a few players might come across, but it is still a wonder as to how it got past the testing phase.
There are problems with the overall game design, but there is no denying the fact that Moon is still one impressive game. This game takes place on the Moon because of its barren environment. There would be no way to create a game like this in a lush forest with lots of foliage or with lots of other graphical elements going on. I think this reflects the thorough thought process that Renegade Kid has with their games: they want to create games specially for the system they are created on. Graphically, Moon pushes the DS to limits not yet seen on the hardware and should really be experienced, for at least that initial first entertaining hour, by any DS player.