Review: Moon (Nintendo DS)

mooncoverMoon
Developer: Renegade Kid
Publisher: Mastiff
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date: 01/13/2009


The DS has a HUGE library of games at this point. No matter what genre you’re looking for, there are a great selection of each available for Nintendo’s portable money printer.

Still, there is one genre that has been largely untouched. First person shooters are a rare breed on the DS. There are only a handful of them, despite the massive popularity of the genre. In fact, since the release of the excellent Metroid Prime: Hunters, the only games released have been Call of Duty ports and now two games by indy developer Renegade. Their first attempt was Dementium: The Ward, which was moderately well received. Moon is their newest offering and switches from the horror genre to sci-fi.

Is this one space trip better left untaken?

Story

The year in 2058. It has been nearly a hundred years since mankind first stepped foot on the moon. Now, space travel is beginning to really take off. Things take a turn for the unexpected when a group of scientists discover a hatch on the moon. When a team is sent to investigate, they are attacked by sentry drones and suffer massive casualties. As Edward Kane, it is your job to explore the hatch and find out what is going on as well as attempt to rescue your comrades.

The story starts off pretty slow, but it really picks up in the later stages of the game. Throughout each level you’ll find terminals that display translated journal entries, as well as stay in near constant contact with your commanding officer and tech officer. As you travel on, conspiracies are broken, and a horrifying truth is revealed.

The underground tunnels are initially empty but soon fill out with strange alien technology. (And eventually, aliens themselves.) I don’t really want to give anything major away, but let’s just say that all of those alien abduction stories were more real then we could have ever imagined.

As far as action plots go, this one is quite solid and should keep you interested until the very end. This isn’t the next great sci-fi epic, but is more like a satisfying short story.

Graphics

Our own Alex Lucard gave Dementium a perfect score in the graphics department two years ago. Obviously, the standards have been raised since then. Moon does a good job of creating an alien atmosphere, but doesn’t even manage to meet the graphical power of the original Samus shooter for the DS.

For one, the various corridors that you’ll traverse over the course of the game can’t seem to avoid looking similar to each other. The game tries to trick you by using different colors, but the texture never changes. If you’ve ever seen the movie Cube, you’ll know that every room looked exactly the same despite a different color palette.

Also, most of the rooms you visit are empty. There are very few signs of life and you’ll wonder where the hell the aliens lived when they inhabited the hatch. There is a plot point that kind of explains this, but I still felt like something was missing. moon1

As far as enemies go, you’ll fight mostly floating robots and alien grunts. Each one looks the same as the other and aren’t very pretty to look at to boot. There are several bosses though, that move with fluidity and look pretty sweet.

The most impressive thing about the game is how smooth it runs. Throughout the entire campaign, I encountered only a handful of moments with slowdown. This occurs only when there are several enemies on screen firing off simultaneous blasts. For ninety percent of the game, it runs amazingly smooth.

Moon‘s graphics get the job done, if still failing to meet expectations.

Audio

There are only a couple of moments that feature voice acting, but they’re solid.

What helps set this game apart is the background music. For the most part, the music is underplayed and instead features strange sounds that set the player on edge and really help illustrate how alone the main character is. To be honest, it can get annoying, but that actually makes it better. You’re never given a moment to rest easy. The music lets you know that at any moment a pissed off extra-terrestrial could come charing down the corridor with guns blazing. I love it.

The sound effects don’t quite match the music. The basic assault rifle sounds small and pathetic, while the other weapons you find feature typical laser blasts. Edward makes the same grunting sound every time he gets hit and annoying beeping sound plays when your health gets too low.

The music helps set the mood and creates a threatening atmosphere. The rest of the package is par for the course for any DS game.

Gameplay.

Like other successful shooters on the DS, Moon incorporates a combo control scheme. You use the directional pad to move the player back and forth as well as strafe side to side. The left shoulder button is used to fire your weapon, and the rest of the duties fall on the touch screen . You can look around by sliding the stylus in the desired direction, much like you would use a mouse on the PC. You can also bring up your map, weapon selection screen, and interact with the environment using little buttons on the screen. These do not interfere at all with manipulating the camera. It all runs smooth. It will take some time to get used to, but after a while it feels natural and you’ll have no problems moving or aiming around.

Moon is all about running and gunning. You won’t find complicated puzzles or bizarre mini-games here. Your job is to traverse the depths of the hatch and shoot anything that gets in your way. The only time you break out of this trend is to use your Remote Access Droid. The handy robot controls the same as Edward and is used to explore vents and deactivate force fields so that Ed can unlock bonus missions and continue the running and gunning. You’ll also have a few vehicle missions, but the controls here are poor. Thankfully, these sections take up only a few minutes of overall game time. The core of the game is spent in first person.

The game is very linear. A map is always accessible and shows every room and every door from the get go. You’ll never get lost in this game. This becomes a bit of a problem when you’re looking for secrets, as their locations are ridiculously easy to dig out. Upon completion of the game, I had missed only one artifact. I can only assume I passed right by it without noticing it because I was tired or something. Seriously, there is no excuse for not finding something in this game. moon2

You’ll unlock about eight or so weapons throughout the course of the game. You start out with a weak assault rife that has unlimited rounds, but soon uncover superior alien weapons that you’ll rely on . There’s a pistol, chain gun, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, and a couple of others. I found that each of them were useful at certain points. It is one of the rare shooters where you’ll still be using each weapon at the end of the game.

The real disappointing thing about the game is how few enemy types there are. You’ll fight maybe ten throughout the game, and that is counting bosses. Sure, the enemies will grown in power and numbers, but after a certain point in the game, it has nothing new to throw at you. Even the bosses get repetitive, as you fight stronger versions of the same bosses throughout. I know the DS isn’t the most powerful system, but a little more variety would have gone a long away.

If you’re looking for a first person adventure with a lot of exploring and/or platforming. This is an all out action game from start to finish. It ends up being a quite solid one at that.

Replayability

Moon‘s campaign will take you about six hours to complete. Assuming you’ve found the hidden artifacts, you’ll then have about half a dozen training missions to try out. All told, you’re looking at about eight hours of content on the cartridge. You can replay any episode that you’ve completed, but that’s about it. There is no multi player or new game plus to fool around with.

Its kind of sad really. An FPS that used Nintendo Wi-Fi would be very well appreciated. I can still find people to play Metroid Prime: Hunters with over three years later. Sadly, this is a solo game only.

There are three difficulties to play through, but you shouldn’t need to play easy at all. So for the dedicated, there is always hard mode. Apart from that, this is a one and done game for thirty dollars.

Balance

This is a pretty easy first person shooter. Even I, who tends to suck at the genre, had only a few troublesome areas where enemies were dense or a bosses’ trick not quite apparent at first. Still, it usually boils down to the player just not doing something correct. For instance, if you waste your best ammo on lowering a bosses’ shields, then you’re left with nothing but weak guns to plow away at their health.

Once you get the sniper rifle, and subsequently the rocket launcher and seeker gun, bosses become a joke. There was one section where I had to fight four different, powerful sentry bots to obtain the keys to continue forward. The trek to these bosses were decently challenging, but that was only because I conserved my ammo and used mostly the assault gun. Once I got to the drones, it only took three shots from the sniper rifle to finish them off. They were down before they ever landed a hit on me. There are also door sentries and times when you’ll find a power core. These sections were laughably easy. The doors never landed a hit on me. I could stand right in front of them and hold down the fire button and they’d be toast.
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That isn’t to say there isn’t any challenge to the game at all. The enemies get tougher and tougher as your progress. Drones fire more shots and and are much more adept at dodging. It can be all too easy to get stuck in a corner and get blast away.

Still, if you’re were hoping for a great challenge, you’re going to have to start with hard mode right off the bat.

Originality

This is a pretty standard FPS. You have straightforward levels and plenty of robots to battle.

Still, the moon is a relatively untouched location for this kind of game. I like the idea that aliens have long been using our moon as a secret base as a headquarters. I also enjoyed the sick twist regarding what they were doing here.

As far as shooters go, this doesn’t even attempt to reinvent the wheel. This was all about bringing classic shooter gameplay to the DS. It succeeded a little too much.

Addictiveness

The linear level design and repetitive enemy types can hurt the game, but you’ll still feel the need to press on thanks to the fun gameplay and interesting story.

You won’t finish this in one sitting, but you’ll be able to play it for a couple of hours at a time at the very least. Fact of the matter is that shooting baddies with nifty weapons is fun and when it controls as smoothly as this, you’ll want to keep playing.

Appeal Factor

Like I’ve said, there are very few first person shooters out there for the DS. I know of a lot of people who are looking for a good one to play on the go. Those players will be quite satisfied with the overall single player experience. moon3

Still, in terms of the total package, this game can’t compete with its predecessors in that it offers no multi player whatsoever. The best part of any shooter is getting together with some friends and blowing the crap out of each other. With the upcoming C.O.R.E. promising at least local multi player and Metroid still delivering the goods online, a lot of those players may pass it up.

Still, anyone looking for some satisfying run and gun play will get a kick out of this game.

Miscellaneous

I really enjoyed this game, even it didn’t quite match up with Metroid. Sure, you can’t jump, morph into a ball, or play online, but Moon still delivers where it counts.

I want to give some props to the developers to how well the atmosphere is pulled off. When the rooms get filled with alien technology and you see still living human beings struggling against sinister machines, the stage is set for a creepy atmosphere that really helps the player feel they’re alone in an alien environment.

I do believe this game is a bit overpriced. Had this been twenty dollars instead of thirty, I’d be urging everyone I know with a DS to pick it up. However, at thirty dollars, this becomes a harder sell. You’ll get a solid single player experience, but the replay value is low, so it might not be worth it to some people. If you can find it to rent it, this is definitely worth the cash.

The Scores
Story: Enjoyable
Graphics: Below Average
Audio: Above Average
Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal Factor: Enjoyable
Miscellaneous: Good
Final Score: Decent Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
diehardjack1Despite being a by the numbers shooter with little replay value, Moon is a solid game thanks to smooth controls, a fun story, and satisfying run and gun gameplay. It could use a bit more variety and a few tweaks in the balancing department, but anyone looking for a good shooter for the DS will definitely get their monies worth here. If you’ve got the spare cash and a lust for blasting robots and aliens, I’d say pick this up. The moon awaits….

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