As the first title to launch in Europe under the new collaboration between videogame publishers Gamebridge and Rising Star Games, Moon is a very different proposition to that which we’ve come to expect from the consistently reliable “Home of Japanese Gaming”. Indeed, Moon is in fact a game developed by US studio Renegade Kid, the team responsible for SouthPeak’s Dementium: The Ward, and so delivers the promise of a more western orientated game.
As a First-Person Shooter, Moon’s western design is immediately recognisable. With Renegade Kid having cut their teeth with the Nintendo DS’s Dementium: The Ward, a more than enjoyable First-Person Horror title, hopes have been set rather high and the press prior to release have been mostly enthusiastic, and with a lack of titles aimed at the Hardcore Gamer audience gracing the Nintendo DS’s retail space in modern times, Moon certainly has a chance of winning back the early adopters.
Playing as Major Kane, in the year 2058, you have been called to Lunar Outpost Alpha in order to investigate strange energy readings and missing personnel. As the Chief Operational Officer of the Extra Terrestrial Encounter Organization, knowingly referring to himself as a “grunt”, Major Kane has learnt to shoot first and ask questions later, which is exactly what you’ll be doing throughout this engrossing Science-Fiction adventure.
In play, the game bears immediate resemblance to the Metroid Prime series. Utilising an almost carbon copy of the control scheme employed by Metroid Prime: Hunters, the game delivers a cinematic, up-tempo experience more comparable to the home console releases in the series. Though divided into chapters, the whole of the game is presented as a linear story-based expedition, with an unfolding Map and staged plot delivery, via Metal Gear Solid-esque radio communication sequences. Back tracking, examining the environment and a similarly paced weapons upgrade system hark back to the many highlights of Samus Aran’s first-person escapades, as do the save and respawn functions. The Remote Access Droid acts as an intriguing substitute for the Morph Ball, though rarely demands the same level of skill from the player.
Aside from liberally borrowing some of the most functional components of the best in the Metroid Prime releases, Moon takes inspiration from a handful of other top-tier First-Person Shooters. The vehicle sections are a distinguishable highlight, wherein both control and level design have clearly been inspired by Halo’s Warthogs, and the weapon selection is filled with pleasing chunky short-range weaponry and some surprisingly pretty longer range, area-effect equipment.
Moon does have its issues, however. Although the geometry of the areas is interesting and the walls display character far beyond your typical corridor-based shooter, many of the areas are noticeably sparse in furniture. The infrequency of bipedal enemies will annoy some, as most of the game is spent battling floating or crawling enemies far smaller than yourself, and the omission of any multi-player aspects at all may have prevented many from purchasing the title thus far.
Moon was intended to push the Nintendo DS hardware to it’s limits, and while there may well be some amount of room left to manoeuvre, Renegade Kid has created one of the best looking games on the system. The technical aspects of frame-rate and pop-up are unarguably far and above most of what’s offered on the system, but it’s the filmic style of the animation in Cut-Scenes and wholly impressive sound quality that provide Moon with it’s engrossing atmosphere.
The Nintendo DS may not be known for its Hardcore Gamer audience these days, but it would be hard to ignore that fact that such a market does still exist. Moon, undoubtedly, is the best game pitched to this audience yet this year, and with regards to First-Person Shooter titles, doesn’t appear as though it will be pushed back into second place any time soon. A wholly enjoyable title that delivers atmosphere in spades, Moon is light years ahead of the competition.