Traditionally, portable systems have not been an effective platform for first person shooters. Without a second analog stick, PSP players have been forced to use the face buttons for directional orientation in a shooter- an inherently awkward scheme. A few first-person DS titles, like Metroid Prime Hunters, have made use of the touch screen for controlling the viewing perspective, while the d-pad was used for movement. Although this control method isn’t ideal, it is drastically better than the button pushing alternative.
Last year, developer Renegade Kid utilized this control scheme in its FPS/survival horror amalgam, Dementium: The Ward. While the title had an amazing 3D engine, the game suffered from a lack of depth, and a painfully short game experience. Now the developer has returned with a first person shooter set in space- Moon.
As the game starts, the player is introduced to Major Kane, who is the leader of the Extra-Terrestrial Encounter Organization (ETEO). Sent to investigate an abnormal energy reading, the ETEO team is attacked, leaving Kane to explore the base. Much like the Metal Gear series, your travels will be interrupted by occasional Comm-link chatter. This helps to build Moon’s sense of isolation and also works to push the game’s narrative along.
Players expecting hectic, run-and-gun action may be disappointed by Moon’s emphasis on exploration. Early on in the title, players will find the Remote Search Droid (RSD), a small mobile robot with limited defensive capabilities. When environmental paths are blocked, players will switch to the RSD’s perspective to temporarily disable a node. Once the switch has been disarmed, players can switch back to controlling Kane. Occasionally, players will get to drive the LOLA-RR10, a moon-buggy equipped with a laser-turret. To assist in their space quest, players have access to a handy overhead map, which color-codes explored areas.
Although many Metroid Prime Hunter players complained of hand-cramping, we never felt any pain during our hour-long bursts with the title. Since Moon uses a similar control method, we expected to feel a bit of discomfort during a two-and-a-half hour marathon play session. Except for a bit of eye-strain, no symptoms were exhibited. The title’s requirement to pick up the stylus to change weapons, open doors, or view the map, may have alleviated any muscle strain due to constant hand positioning. For left-handed players, the control scheme is customizable.
Graphically, the game offers an exemplary 3D engine that is locked at 60 fps. Occasionally, when moving down a corridor, the speed of the game distracted us from the limited graphical resolution of the DS. Small elements, like pulsating corridors and a backdrop filled with stars added greatly to Moon’s presentation. Pulsating electronic music reminiscent of early John Carpenter soundtracks, helps set an appropriate mood. Although we appreciated the Moog-inspiration accompaniment, it may be grow tiresome for some gamers.
Much like Dementium, Moon suffers from a sparse number of save points. If the player is killed by a band of marauding enemies, the player is sent to the last checkpoint. Quite a few times we lost 10-15 minutes worth of progress because of this design quirk. While the game’s difficult is generally on the easy side, there are a few section of increased adversity.
Thanks to its fantastic engine, Moon offers one of the best looking FPS experiences found on the DS. While action fans may be discouraged by the game’s emphasis on exploration and simplistic puzzle elements, adventure aficionados should be pleasantly surprised.