Instead of raiding tombs, Moon Raider is about collecting gems within a lunar environment to save your moon-based mother. Although playable with enjoyment, there are some quirks that hold back this downloadable Metroidvania-lite.
Moon Raider is sort of a Metroidvania-lite because you don’t gain a tremendous amount of new abilities throughout the campaign. The world is linked cohesively but is ultimately divided into zones and is much more linear than open world. There are some subtle secrets off the beaten path but it is mostly a run to the right experience.
The gimmick behind Moon Raider comes from the crystal system. Enemies drop crystals when defeated and shooting objects all over the environment releases crystals, all of which are magnetically collected. Crystals are used to power your dash maneuver, a skill that is used to traverse hazards and other environmental traps. It can even be used as a form of attack. These crystals are found everywhere but there are times when you will need to grind or a minute or two to collect enough so you can clear that lava pit. With so many of these floating gems around, I cannot help but wonder if the player’s special ability would have been better off by using a regenerating meter. Snagging crystals quickly becomes busy work and you wind up doing it more than anything.
There are some other issues that distract from the experience. The camera wobble is pretty bad, bouncing left, right, up, and down with each flick of the analog stick. You also cannot shoot after a double jump, cannot duck, cannot shoot down when in the air, and cannot drop through platforms by pressing down + jump even though there are plenty of opportunities to use features like these. For the most part, the checkpoint system works well but there are times when it can screw the player. For example, after several attempts I managed to defeat a boss. With each death, I restarted right next to the boss encounter which was great. However, after defeating the boss, I died on my way to the exit in that particular zone, resulting a full boss fight restart. The one hit kills, like falling in lava, is always annoying too. It is also a bummer that the controls cannot be reconfigured. By default, B jumps and A attacks (the NES controls) but I much prefer go with the X and B button combination instead.
The soundtrack is nicely done, providing chiptune-like tracks that fall in line with the pixel-based art style. There are some issues with hit detection though as I was able to perform an infinite spin jump next to walls with indentations. On occasion, some animation suffers from low frame rates too, like how the fireball from the lava pit awkwardly switches direction or when one-hit kill lasers fire from just off screen. These are minor though and shouldn’t take away from the overall experience. This is a smaller budget title after all.
Moon Raider isn’t a poor man’s Metroidvania, just a lite version of one. It is a simpler approach that is more pick-up-and-play friendly, not as refined, but carries a lower price point. Definitely not the best game in the genre but certainly not the worse, like the moon child playable character, it is awkwardly stuck in the middle.
Also available on Xbox One and PS4.
Not To Be Confused With: Moon Diver
Also Not To Be Confused With: Tomb Raider
Wait For It: a new Lunar RPG by Working Designs