Moon Hands-On

Discover what really lies beneath the surface of the moon.

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From the makers of Dementium: The Ward comes Moon, a sci-fi shooter that derives its name from the extraterrestrial setting. You play as Major Kane, leader of the Extra-Terrestrial Encounter Organization (ETEO). Kane and a team of soldiers and scientists are gathered on the surface to prepare for possible alien encounters. Developer Renegade Kid has teamed up with Mastiff to create another first-person shooter for the Nintendo DS. We had the opportunity to meet with Mastiff and play a half-complete version of Moon, and even though sound, dialogue, and cutscenes are still in development, things are looking good so far.

The game starts at Lunar Base Alpha, in the year 2058, where a hatch has been discovered. There are interesting energy readings coming from the subterranean structure, and before you know it, your team is attacked and you are left to explore the hatch on your own. Though the game primarily focuses on the action, Mastiff assures us that it is story driven and that the mystery will unravel itself and the gameplay is full of surprises. You will be in frequent contact with your general via a commlink, which functions like the codec in the Metal Gear Solid series. The dialogue drives the storyline and also provides mission objectives and guidance. We were taken down into the alien hatch and were able to explore some of the corridors, searching for items and fighting off bizarre creatures and droids.

Hmm… what could this glowing neon stuff in the tube be?
Hmm… what could this glowing neon stuff in the tube be?

We got a chance to see the first boss, which is a mechanical-looking creature with limbs that fires large painful balls of who knows what at your face. There's some planning required to take it down because you're going to need to find its weak spot. This section of the game wasn't complete yet, but it was a nice glimpse at what's to come. It's not the type of game where you can just barge in with guns blazing and hope to eventually take the enemy down. Careful planning is important, and there were droids that we came across who eagerly set off the alarm to call in reinforcements.

Even though the DS may not be as comfortable as a regular controller for shooter games, the controls work surprisingly well with the touch screen. You use the control pad to strafe and the touch screen to aim and look around and double tapping will make you run. The L button is to shoot. If you're a lefty, all this can be configured the other way, using the XYBA buttons to strafe. Your touch screen will display a minimap of the rooms nearby, and if you pause the game, it shows you a map of the area. Buttons for your commlink, map, mission, and options are available as well. You can select weapons or switch to a search droid using the options menu.

The search droid is used for some of the puzzle elements of the game where you may need to get under some pipes or cargo to retrieve items or upgrades. The droid is also equipped with an EMP cannon, which can stun and destroy enemies as well as shut off electronics. It definitely comes in handy when you want to get to hard-to-reach places. Items that you will come across early on include an alien fluid that has regenerative properties. We were told that this is a key part of the story, but of course it's too early for us to find out why. A variety of weapons will also be included, many of which are to be used strategically throughout the game. You begin with a self-regenerating semiautomatic, which will work for the early stages, but as you explore the moon further, more weapons will be at your disposal. Although we had only an hour with this game, we were told that we will have a chance to come up to the surface again and that there is a moon buggy just waiting to be driven.

My, what nice… arms you have.
My, what nice… arms you have.

The developers have designed this game for hardcore players who want a solid single-player challenge. There are different difficulty settings, and you can unlock hidden content by playing on the hardest setting. During your exploration you can pick up alien artifacts that will also let you unlock more content. Each time you complete an area, you unlock the ability to quickplay short levels on different difficulty settings. If you're worried about save points, Renegade Kid has learned from its mistakes and has made sure to include checkpoints so that you do not have to go back to the beginning of the stage.

The environments and sound were not complete yet, but so far the surroundings seem fit for an alien hatch, with glowing walls and high-tech-looking catacombs to explore. If you're not looking at the map, it sometimes feels as though you're still in the same room, but details like switches or even alien terminals will help you get your bearings. Adding to the sinister mood are ambient sounds and repetitious beeps that echo off into space, creating a sense of mystery and uneasiness. Like with Dementium, headphones are a must to fully experience Moon. For more space action, be sure to look for Moon on the DS this fall.

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