Moon (DS) review
"If you're someone who does a lot of commuting and happen to be a big fan of first-person shooters, Moon might just hit that sweet spot you're looking for. For everyone else, there's little here to distinguish it from any number of first-person shooters from the last decade. "
Moon, the new first-person shooter DS game from Renegade Kid, creators of Dementium: The Ward, represents one of the hardest scoring dilemma's I've yet faced. If you curb your expectations for Moon on the basis that it's a first-person shooter on a handheld, you may find it among the best of its kind since Metroid Prime: Hunters. However, if you look at it as a first-person shooter regardless of platform, and compare it to similar games of its ilk, Moon certainly leaves something to be desired.
Obviously, I cannot compare Moon's audio/visual components to those of console first-person shooters, so I won't judge it too harshly there. But even for its meager hardware, Moon's art direction is simply underwhelming. The architecture and repetitive textures are bland and rudimentary, as is the sound. The audio/visual presentation is adequate on a technical level and runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, but the atmosphere is horribly lacking. It lacks the rich, otherworldly landscapes of Metroid or the wonderful metal bleakness of Doom. I can cut the game some slack for the DS's limited tech stats, but lots of PC shooters from the mid 90s had even less to work with and still contained better presentation than this.
The story, too, is horribly generic. The idea is that you're Major Kane, a soldier in a unit that deals with extra terrestrials, in the event that we ever find any. Of course you do--on the moon no less--and things start going wrong. Your squad goes missing and you know there's something your superiors aren't telling you, so you need to run around flipping switches and shooting sentry bots in order to sort out the whole sorry mess. Thankfully, you're equipped to translate all alien communication terminals into English because as the game explains, most communication technology used today is based on alien technology found at Roswell. Uh huh. It's not like Doom had a great story either, but at least it didn't spend much time mulling over it. Moon contains entirely too much exposition and dull banter, making the pedestrian script stick out all the more.
Moon is not without its charms, however. Its most notable contribution to the genre is in the form of the controllable Remote Access Droid (RAD). Frequently, you'll be tasked with sending it through vents and under shafts in order to seek out and shoot triggers that will disable a barrier for your man. The twist is that you can only control one character at a time, while managing both their health meters simultaneously. Thus, disabling a door with the RAD, quickly legging it out of harm's way, then switching back to Kane, and having to retrieve your droid companion quickly becomes the name of the game. Reuniting with your host or droid is extremely satisfying, and that's where Moon really comes into its own.
The other big highlight of Moon is its wonderful collection of boss battles. There is some repetition here, as many bosses are just regurgitated versions of earlier ones with extra challenges thrown into the mix, but they're almost always challenging and never less than fun. The final boss, in particular, was perhaps the game's finest moment; a tense skirmish where even your most advanced weaponry will only marginally dampen its armor.
Which brings me to another high point of the game: the weapons. At first, you'll do well enough getting by on the Super Assault Rifle, which is anything but super but does have unlimited ammo. Strangely, your pistol is both more powerful than your assault rifle and more accurate and fun to use. I was able to make it through most of the game just using the pistol, but by the last quarter of the game, the enemy difficulty increases dramatically and I had to rely solely on my heavy weapons while constantly running low on ammo. It's a shame it took so long for the combat to really reach that point, because as soon as it starts getting really good, the game ends (at approximately 7 hours, give or take).
DS games are often at their best when they offer an experience you cannot get on another platform. Games like Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Meteos, and Kirby: Canvas Curse play to the strengths of the DS in this regard. Moon only utilizes the DS insofar as it uses the touch screen for aiming control, which is only a lateral move at best compared to the console standard analogue sticks. As such, there is little reason to play Moon when there are so many other, better FPS games out there. However, if you're someone who does a lot of commuting and you happen to be a big fan of first-person shooters, Moon might just hit that sweet spot you're looking for. For everyone else, there's little here to distinguish it from any number of first-person shooters from the last decade.
Freelance review by Jeffrey Matulef (January 21, 2009)
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