ReviewsReview: Moon Raider

Review: Moon Raider

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If you were a world-class scientist who was about to visit space, would you want to; discover new life forms, a new home for us to live on, or be known for travelling the furthest distance? They all sound amazing, and I bet the one option that didn’t cross your mind was to fall in love with an alien Queen! Moon Raider wants you to exist in this mad fantasy science fiction world.

Developed by Cascadia Games and published by Drageus Games, this is a 2D retro platform title that takes you on a journey inside the Moon. You will experience all the usual platforming mechanics in this colourful pixelated story of love and family.

Moon Raider sticks to the tried and tested mechanics.

Moon Raider has a bizarre story to support the out of this world gameplay. Dr Cavor rescues the former Moon Queen Selene from the thuggish Selentine’s. Her reign was ended by her people and the doctor refuses to sit by and allow her to be placed in danger. Taking her back to Earth, the two fall in love where they have a daughter. Tragedy strikes! Selene falls ill, as she relies upon the gems of the Moon to keep her healthy. The only choice to keep her mother alive is to travel to her former home and take 200 gems to heal and sustain her.

So, it will not win any awards for originality, but it sets the tone nicely for the 10 areas that you’ll have to explore. The Selentine’s were considered advanced beings, but you soon discover that they are primitive. Their only concern is their supply of gems, which you are happily stealing. You must traverse each room; breaking boxes, shooting aliens and deactivating laser beams. The further you get, the harder it becomes, but the difficulty never gets to where it is unplayable.

Explosions and gems!

Familiar gameplay.

If you’ve tried any of the many indie platform games that are available, you’ll feel instantly at home with this. The pixelated landscapes wind around in a maze-like fashion. You will find; dead ends, secret rooms and crates full of crystals. Ultimately, however, your aim is to move through a door to the next room. Any enemies that you face can be ignored or killed, the choice is yours. But shooting them rewards you with gems, so the small amount of effort is worth your time.

Every area is blessed with an end-stage boss. These 10 overpowered beasts will; shoot laser beams, impale you with spikes, and do their best to kill you instantly. But with a little patience and some keen observation, it will ensure they are defeated quickly. The fighting is enjoyable, but isn’t the best part of Moon Raider that accolade is given to the movement mechanic.

Powered by gems, you will be gifted with the ability to soar through the air like a burning bird. You’ll reach otherwise unobtainable heights and find many of the collectables that were out of reach. This special ability can; destroy obstacles, kill enemies, and allows you to sprint around the world. Just be warned that it runs out, and when that happens, you drop like a stone through water.

Dying, the unavoidable annoyance.

Death is an unavoidable annoyance in most games, and in Moon Raider, it’s no different. A small health bar and no additional lives mean that dying is a concern. Fortunately, you don’t lose too much progress as you spawn at the start of each room. As the stages wear on, though, they become increasingly complex. Losing all your hard work is agony, and it hurts like a kick in the balls.

It’s painful, annoying, and will make you grimace. But it simply serves as a reminder that the platforming genre requires; accuracy, skill, and patience. Spiked traps, laser beams and overly aggressive aliens all try to ruin your adventure. You must plan your approach, take your time, and collect all the healing gems. After all, you are the only one who can save your mum’s life.

Keep moving, you don’t want to freeze.

Moon Raider looks nice but doesn’t stand out.

What I loved about Moon Raider was the variety in level design. Each stage had its theme and style, with its hazards to overcome. The bright and simple look was pleasant enough, with attractive sprites and smooth movement. The stages are well lit, with enough definition between each object to spot the traps and collectables.

It was done to a good standard, but it doesn’t stand out against the many similar titles that fall into this category. Luckily its odd story and flying mechanics make it memorable. Otherwise, it could have been just “another” platform title.

It continues its retro influence with its basic and to the point audio. A surprisingly quiet soundtrack plays alongside the jumping and shooting action. The synthesised music allows the loud and almost overbearing sound effects to be at the fore. Ear piercing noises play constantly. Your laser-firing, gems being collected, boxes smashing, and so forth. It’s shrill, painful, but works perfectly with the science fiction theme. I liked how the audio was integrated, but I would have preferred the music playing a bigger part in setting the scene.

Plan your route and stay alive.

Its lack of difficulty and ease of controls makes it a newbies dream. 

We all have to start somewhere, right? No one wants to cut their teeth on Okunoka Madness, as it’s far too challenging. Moon Raider is a fun and accessible title that allows gamers of all skill sets to enjoy themselves. Easy to learn fundamentals and well-designed levels allow you to casually work through each stage. Cascadia Games have done well to balance the challenge with the enjoyment factor.

Platform games are more than simply leaping chasms and killing enemies. The best ones force you to explore the world around you, searching for hidden collectables. Luckily, this has that element in abundance. Secret rooms, bonus areas, and locked up aliens that need rescuing. What more could you ask for? Without this, there would be little replay value. But it’s extremely enjoyable searching every nook and cranny and it’ll keep you returning for more.

Does Moon Raider tick all the boxes?

Moon Raider’s biggest issue is strangely also one of its strong points. Its simplicity and familiar mechanics make it super accessible, but also prevent it from making its mark. It has a nice art style, in keeping audio and an unusual story. I liked the difficulty curve, and how it can be played casually. It has plenty going for it, so buy it here! Can you save your mum by gathering all the gems on the Moon? You must, you’re her only hope! 

SUMMARY

Moon Raider is a colourful 2D retro puzzle platform adventure based inside the Moon. 10 areas with unique styles await you as you hunt for gems to save your mum's life.

+ Nice pixelated graphics.
+ Retro sound.
+ Accessible to all.
+ Collectables add replay value.
- The music should have been used more effectively.
- It will be too easier and familiar for veteran gamers.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I've now found a new home to write my reviews, and get my opinion out to the masses. Still the lead admin for Xboxseriesfans on Facebook and Instagram. I love the gaming world, and writing about it. I can be contacted at [email protected] for gaming reviews.

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