It’s tempting to jump right into Moon’s technical achievements and all-around impressive attempt at creating a handheld FPS, but let’s begin with a broader appraisal of what developer Renegade Kid has accomplished. For the most part, this is what inspires publishers looking to release a game on the DS:
While the mighty mane of Ted Danson and disarming good looks of a mid-80s Tom Selleck are fine and well for those seeking an audience with a crippling case of baby fever, we’re after something a bit more, well, not shitty. Like say, this:
Bone-chilling sci-fi is precisely what drove Renegade Kid to produce Moon, a fully 3D FPS that controls smooth as butter. Aiming is done with the stylus, allowing you quick and easy blasting more akin to a PC mouse than clumsy analog sticks, and the only other button you have to worry about is L (or R for the lefties). Pressing L fires whichever gun you’ve acquired, and swapping weapons is equally easy thanks to an intuitive touch screen interface. Once you’re acclimated to the controls, actual gameplay is a slower take on the Doom/Quake formula, and that’s where the problems kick in.
Above: Strangely enough, that’s the weakest gun you’ll use
Once the initial “wow, this is really slick” wears off, you’ll quickly realize the gameplay is stuck in the ‘90s, with straightforward, nearly identical hallways and repetitive combat. No help from the enemies either, as they’re mostly floaty robots that hover around like metallic mosquitoes, and destroying faceless, emotionless automatons is about as fun as fighting a calculator.
Above: Some levels put you inside the LOLA rover, which comes equipped with standard 32-bit power sliding
We expect more out of the FPS genre than collecting keys and trudging through lookalike corridors. Maybe if the enemies were livelier, your character faster and the tasks presented more varied, we’d really get behind this, as Moon is definitely not a bad game – just an OK one with a few serious issues. The real stickler for us though is the fact Nintendo did the same idea, better, three years ago. Remember Metroid Prime Hunters?
Above: Four player DS deathmatching… from 2006
When today’s “technically impressive” DS game can’t compare to one that did the same things three years ago plus an extensive multiplayer component (of which Moon has none), it’s hard to retain that first jolt of enthusiasm. You’re getting a lesser experience despite 36 months of possible improvements.
Next page – a direct video comparison of Moon and Hunters, plus our verdict.
Below is a video detailing the typical gameplay experience for both games. Metroid first, then Moon.
Despite being significantly older, Metroid packs a lot more punch. Better architecture, more interesting sound effects, more intense enemies, just about any measure you want to use, Metroid wins. We could forgive Moon’s overall slowness if the atmosphere were suitably unsettling or the storyline engrossing, but neither are the case; so-so gameplay and so-so plot bring down the otherwise admirable work done here.
Above: Psshh, they’re still using the TRU-8927 models in this station? How embarrassing…
We desperately want to sprint into the streets, tossing confetti in the air, singing Renegade Kid’s praises for daring to dream up a moody FPS on a system best known for preteen wish fulfillment. Instead we recommend it as a positive example to other developers, that better things are possible if you merely put in the effort. So please Renegade Kid, don’t be discouraged. Fine tuning the gameplay for a sequel (or follow-up project) could result in something really worth getting excited about.
Jan 23, 2009