For as long as video games exist there will be nostalgia for their roots. Moons of Darsalon aims to harken back to the grimy arcades of days gone by whilst mixing in some modern sensibilities, reasonably tricky gameplay, and some fourth-wall-breaking, irreverent humour which at times leaves something to be desired.
Coming from Dr. Kucho! Games, Moons of Darsalon aims to build on the previous entry in this series, Pilots of Darsalon. Pilots played very similarly to Asteroids, albeit with far more advanced graphics and a wider variety of enemies than a few space rocks. Moons, however, reminds me a lot of both Earthworm Jim, purely in terms of its science-fiction setting, and Lemmings, because good luck to you sir.
It’s Lemmings Jim, But Not As We Know It
Moons of Darsalon has you playing as a space-faring rescuer. Dropped onto an alien world (Darsalon or its moons I presume), you are tasked with rescuing as many of your fellow astronauts as possible. Lemmings springs to mind because these boys (or/and girls) are dumb as rocks. They will gladly wander to their doom, then blame you every three seconds for it. You are granted a number of tools to help you in your task, a radio to issue commands, a flashlight to illuminate dark areas (your fellow explorers are scared of the dark by the way), a laser gun to fight off hoards of frog-like aliens, a jetpack to jet about, and a ground maker to forge new paths.
As lead your companions along by their noses you will encounter a number of difficulties to overcome, some are fairly straightforward, others less so. What makes the game a completely stress-free experience is the back-seat driving being done by your less-than-grateful damsels. Stop for a moment and they will question your sense of direction. Let one get minorly injured and the moaning will never cease, and God forbid you let one die. This sort of irreverent humour might gel with some but the never-ending speech bubbles popping up on the screen grated me during my time with Moons of Darsalon.
Ready Player One?
Graphically the game looks pretty good, the backdrops are detailed, and the varied lighting makes some scenes feel like something out of a Flash Gordon adventure. However, the scenery gets somewhat old fast as you traverse rocks, rocks and more rocks on your quest to save as many poor souls as possible. But the feel of the classic arcade side-scrolling platformer is captured brilliantly for the most part, which can also be attributed to an excellent 8-bit synth-wave soundtrack.
Speaking of sound, one part I’m not sold on is the voice they chose for the protagonist, he doesn’t speak much but when he does, he sounds like someone doing an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression through a straw. Might work for some, but was just weird in my opinion.
Gameplay is fairly tight, and the opening levels do a decent job of introducing new elements with the need for explicit tutorials. Gunplay is particularly satisfying as you reshape the landscape and blast aliens to smithereens all the while accompanied by visual effects that took me straight back to playing Metal Slug on an arcade machine whilst on holiday in Spain when I was small. Don’t ask why they had Metal Slug, but I was loving it, even if I sucked, which was almost certainly the case.
Also included in Moons of Darsalon is the ability to create levels and upload them to the community database. As Moons of Darsalon is yet to release until April 19th, unfortunately, I couldn’t play anyone’s creations and my creative skills are sorely lacking so any attempt to make my own ending in disaster, but the idea is nice as it gives the game a chance at a longer life span than its original set of levels would have otherwise. I doubt it’s the next Mario Maker, however.
If you yearn for the days of the classic arcade platformer and don’t mind being abused by non-descript astronauts, then Moons of Darsalon could be worth a bit of your time (and money I guess). Just don’t expect the next classic in the genre.