Even though it was released a few years ago, the DS continues to sell like hotcakes. As a matter of fact, these days only one in five people even knows what a hotcake is, and the other four own a DS. Those are some startling statistics, and yet few of the games made for the DS tap the huge first-person-shooter market. Fret not, for game maker Renegade Kid (Dementium: The Ward) fills that void with Moon.
Your character is part of scientific research being done on the moon in the not-too-distant future, but it doesn’t take long for things go horribly wrong. This may sound familiar, but Moon’s story does differentiate itself and turns out to be pretty engaging. Only a single-player campaign is offered, but it is fun enough on its own to make up for the lack of multiplayer.
Moon drops conventional controls for a much more intuitive and satisfying scheme. The top screen, which you will use the majority of the time, shows the first-person viewpoint. The directional pad (or the ABXY buttons for southpaws) moves your character, and the stylus is used to look around. So you’d push up on the d-pad to walk forward and mark up on the touch screen to look up.
The only other buttons needed are the shoulder buttons, which are used for firing. All actions, such as opening doors and swapping weapons, are performed by moving the stylus on the touch screen. The entire control layout works remarkably well and gives you pinpoint accuracy in gunfights. It might feel odd at first, but it quickly become second nature.
Every enemy you face is some type of machine, but apparently robots have just as much desire to live as well-adjusted human beings. They’ll do everything they can to take you down. Rooms in the first level are sparsely scattered with enemies, but midway through the game you’ll begin facing some serious ambushes. Fortunately, you become better armed as the game progresses.
Early on, you acquire a small droid that can be sent out into the crannies you’d never be able to squeeze through. It’s armed with a stun gun of sorts, and its primary function is to temporarily disable shields that block your progression across maps. The droid is essential in solving Moon’s puzzle elements, and it makes a great decoy in sticky situations. Exploring with the droid also provides a nice balance to the shooting gameplay.
Moon’s boss fights follow the classic formula — an attack pattern that’s pretty strictly followed, in which you must find a weakness — but most of the bosses provide a great challenge.
Unfortunately, the majority of the game is spent in linear underground corridors, and several rooms must be revisited even after all enemies have been vanquished, but the monotony’s offset by levels that require you to cruise the planet’s surface in a moon-buggy, and even the subterranean environments are varied enough to keep from becoming too visually redundant.
The baddies are a different story, though. After a while you begin seeing the same robo mofos over and over. Most rooms will provide a mixture of several different types and maybe even a well-placed turret or two to keep you guessing, but the monotony of hovering spheres and spider bots may start to wear on you.
There is no doubt that Renegade Kid’s sophomore effort is another impressive first-person-shooter. They’ve shown once again the DS touch screen can every bit as functional as a joystick or even a mouse and keyboard.