Moon Review: Intergalactic, Planetary
The first time I saw “Moon,” I had a very private demo of the opening of the game from Mastiff’s “Big Dog” in the back hallway, upstairs at the Nintendo World Store. While the demo didn’t last that long, since there was an entire other even that was about to happen (it involved professional eaters), I got a small taste of what was to come for the new FPS from Renegade Kid – the small team that graced the world with the twisted “Dementium: The Ward” a few years ago. Needless to say, when I finally got my hands on the final version of “Moon,” I was impressed by the intergalactic game that was crammed into the tiny DS cartridge; one of the best FPS games for Nintendo’s handheld.
“Moon”’s story is a pretty standard piece of video game fiction – the military is brought in to explore some extraterrestrial unpleasantness in space, something goes wrong, and you have to shoot it. Even though it isn’t that groundbreaking, it’s still compelling enough keep you playing through the game, and to want to continue on to find out just what is happening on the “Moon” (that last part is best read in a deep and foreboding voice). While the overall story is just okay, but there are some really entertaining highlights found throughout the game on the informational panels found throughout the base on the Moon. My personal favorite was about how multiple religions were created to cause conflict amongst the earthlings… well played Renegade Kid, well played.
Calling “Moon” “one of the best FPS games” for the DS, isn’t necessarily a huge compliment, since there’s really only two other FPS games worth mentioning for the platform – one of which was made by Renegade Kid, and the other begins with an “M” and ends with an “etroid Prime: Hunters.” While there isn’t a huge selection of worthy titles to compare “Moon” to, it’s still a solid game, mostly because it is a well executed FPS on a portable console, and that’s a pretty big accomplishment, just ask Sony; they have yet to get it right.
The thing that sets “Moon” apart from other DS games is the spot-on controls. Typically a portable FPS game can’t hold a candle to their console or PC counterparts, but the stylus targeting in “Moon” really creates one of the most accurate control schemes I have ever used, even if it takes some time to get used to the recoil from the guns. Moving around using the D-pad in conjunction with the stylus is smooth, for the most part, as long as the DS Lite fits well in your hand; if it doesn’t extended play sessions are going to hurt, but you can’t fault the game for a hardware flaw.
“Moon” also does a really great job of creating a solid sense of atmosphere, which is hard to do on two tiny little screens – a lot of games have trouble doing that on a 40 inch HDTV. The game also manages to maintain this atmosphere with fairly repetitive environments, and stock enemies, which says a lot about what a small team can accomplish with such little to work with. The scenery does get a little redundant by the end of the game, but you can just consider it an homage to some classic FPS games of yore, like “Wolfenstein 3D” and “Doom.”
Another rather enjoyable aspect of “Moon” is the incorporation of some light puzzle elements. There are many times in the game where you need to get through a door, but it’s locked, and the only way to get through is to trigger the key panels, which are usually on the other side of said door. In order to do so, you need to use a Remote Access Droid, or “R.A.D.” to fire electrical pulses to knock out the key panels. While sometimes it was quite frustrating challenging to have to figure out these little puzzles, it was a great break from all that running and gunning. On a related note, the small handful of driving missions that are peppered throughout the game don’t suck, which could be a first for any FPS, ever.
Coincidentally, it’s one the things that I liked most about “Moon,” the Remote Access Droids, that really leads to the thing that I disliked the most about it. It’s one of the biggest missed opportunities that I’ve seen in gaming in years – “Moon” has no multiplayer, but I wasn’t hoping for multiplayer in the sense that you’re thinking. Sure, “Metroid” offers a really solid FPS multiplayer on the DS, great, let “Metroid” keep that. I don’t need another game where I go around shooting other people from all over the globe. What I really wanted to see in “Moon” was “R.A.D. Racers.” Come on Renegade Kid, I had so much fun driving these little things around the levels with my rumble pak rockin’ the whole way, I wanted to take that online and race my friends. I wanted to shoot their R.A.D.s with my electrical pulse and disable them, so I could make my way to the finish line first. Maybe something to consider for “Moon 2,” … maybe not.
Overall, we’ve all played “Moon,” it’s just gone by many different names in years past – “Halo,” “Doom,” “Duke Nukem,” but, in a really dry first quarter of the year, “Moon” definitely deserves some time in your DS. It’s a really solid second effort by Renegade Kid to open up a genre that’s really had a lot of troubles in handheld form. And, in the end, what’s one of the best part about “Moon”? When you’re done with it, you can go play “Dementium” because you overlooked that when it came out, and now you know why you should go find it.