|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Renegade Kid||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Mastiff||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 13, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Developer Renegade Kid made some waves in the handheld gaming world with its killer debut in fall 2007. The grim and gory launch of Dementium: The Ward sealed the deal for gamers seeking a dark and gruesome first-person survival horror adventure on the DS - a platform previously lacking in mature content for older players. Despite some minor design missteps (the save system was a real bastard), that game was technically proficient and chillingly enjoyable. With its latest effort, Moon, the team has pushed its first-person shooter engine and the DS hardware to the limits.
Moon is built using a modified version of the game engine used in Dementium, but the two games are very different in terms of visual themes, gameplay, and presentation. Moon is more of a medium-tempo, straightforward first-person shooter than the developer's first effort. It retains a more deliberate and steady, adventure-oriented pacing that sets it apart from the higher-speed action of a title like Metroid Prime Hunters. That's not to say the action in Moon is lacking; it's just more balanced. The desire to explore the immersive environments provides the main means to drive progress, while blasting anything that stands in your way - breathing or otherwise - is just part of the fun.
Like Renegade Kid's DS premiere, Moon focuses squarely on offering a compelling single player campaign rooted heavily in the realm of science fiction. The game opens in the year 2058, as a small team of military grunts led by Major Edward Kane land on the grey lunar surface, where the U.S. government has constructed a scientific base. Following the discovery of a mysterious hatch in the Moon's surface, Kane is called in to investigate. The sudden disappearance of team members and unusual energy readings are clear signs that he's in for a bumpy ride. The deeper you explore in the strange technology-laden caverns beneath the Moon's surface, the more unsettling and eerie the story becomes. Much of the actual narrative plays out in the form of messages gleaned from computer terminals that slowly peel back layers of the plot one piece at a time, though you'll also communicate with surviving team members. There are some interesting twists worked in for good measure, but the storytelling frequently takes a back-seat to the exploration and action elements.
Working your way through the labyrinthine depths of the Moon's subterranean domain is not without its perils. As you explore numerous levels filled with sinister alien technology hidden deep below the lunar surface, you'll go toe-to-toe against myriad mechanized defense systems and extra-terrestrial combatants that have nothing but ill intention towards you. The lack of variety in the types of enemies you'll face is one of the more disappointing aspects of Moon. You'll fight many of the same robot drones over and over again, and the aliens themselves are pretty standard humanoids with different kinds of blasters. There are definitely some exciting boss battles, but a few are recycled far more times than necessary. While it's not a game breaker, a little more creativity with foes would have gone a long way.
Slain adversaries drop ammo and health at a reasonable rate, and they don't re-spawn. Jumping into battle with guns blazing for brief, intense periods will give way to moments of calm that allow you to take a closer look at your surroundings and gather any spoils of war left behind. There's a decent variety of standard weapons to pick up at appropriate intervals (these come in hands against the numerous boss battles), and you'll find health and ammo upgrades tucked away in different corners of the map. For the most part, exploration is generally linear, but you'll often have to branch off from the main path to pick up keys or accomplish tasks in order to proceed.
Two excellent additions also change up the gameplay to help keep it from growing monotonous over time. At various points in the adventure, you'll pop out to explore the Moon's surface in LOLA, an armed lunar rover. You'll basically zoom around the surface, while maneuvering through mines and blasting robot drones. This aspect of the gameplay could have been expanded on a tad more, but it's still a needed change of pace that works well. It's important to note the game includes an easily avoidable glitch that'll force you to restart - don't park LOLA on the garage lift located beyond the waypoint the first time you drive. Leave it at the blockade and proceed on foot; you'll be fine.