Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
Moon Diver
Score: 72%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: feelplus Inc.
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Local / Online)
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:
There's a story behind Moon Diver, though at some point, it blends into the background. It's pure old school arcade action, which is what the game, despite its many bumps, succeeds in delivering. Still, those bumps are major obstacles.

You probably won't know what's going on half the time, but at least Moon Diver attempts to put on a good show. The game leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to variety, though the few look-a-like enemies you'll slice your way through look cool. Animations are smooth, without much of a hiccup at all, which helps reinforce the powerful feeling the game is trying to convey.

Sound design is decent. I wasn't a major fan of the soundtrack, though it never got in the way, which is about all you can really ask sometimes. There are no memorable tunes and most of the time, it drowns into the background, giving way to a set of sharp and incredibly explosive sound effects.

Moon Diver's gameplay is similar to Contra, only instead of guns you're handed swords and magic. Even with the different weapons, your mission is the same, defeat hordes of enemies. There's also a bit of platforming going on, though you're primarily cutting your way through enemies. It's mindless hack-and-slash gameplay and, for a time, it's rather satisfying. Eventually, however, the action begins to break down. It's fun, but not in long sprints, which is exactly what the overly-long levels deliver.

Other than the insane difficulty spike, Moon Diver's biggest fault is it is too repetitive. Enemies charge towards you and, like a good sword-wielding soldier, you cut them down where they stand. As cool as it is to see large groups of enemies scatter and die, the feeling is fleeting, especially once the difficulty level starts to catch up to your character's level.

Multiplayer is one of Moon Diver's saving graces. No matter how repetitive the action, things are always more fun when you have friends around. Although I had a difficult time finding online matches, I was able to pull together a couple of offline multiplayer matches. More players do confuse things quite a bit. There are already enough characters on screen, so adding up to three more quickly devolves into a messy situation. Things are even worse if players use the same character. It's nothing you can't play through, but at the same time, expect some bumbling and stumbling due to losing track of your character.

Moon Diver is full of difficulty spikes. They're never sharp or steep enough to completely impale you, but you can expect a few deep gashes and hurt pride. Though I won't go as far as to declare Moon Diver a "return to old school gaming," it does a good job of finding the right balance of frustration and reward.

Moon Diver seems like it was built for multiplayer. Compared to solo play, there's a massive difference in difficulty levels between the two modes. There's a good chance you'll manage to bully your way through the first few levels in single-player, though you'll eventually have to fall back to the earlier levels and grind through a few levels in order to take on later levels. In multiplayer, you can usually team up to quickly wipe out anything that comes your way. You can also "save" characters from death, setting up the possibility for unlimited playtime if you make sure someone is always alive.

Game Mechanics:
Moon Diver demands patience and dedication, which you'll enjoy or hate depending on your tastes. There's no middle-road. The only way to get anywhere is by replaying levels and earning experience points to earn more health, magic or other boosts. It's a nice system and adds some feeling of progression even when you're stuck repeating the same level. The implementation leaves a lot to be desired, however. There's nothing overly spectacular about the screen. Not that fireworks and theatrics are needed, but there's nothing around to even point out you can level beyond a tiny menu.

The leveling system offers a great opportunity to customize your character to your personal play-style. It's a different, and welcome, take the type of action Moon Diver presents. You'll also unlock spells as you explore levels, further adding to the customization options. I really like that you have to explore levels to unlock spells. It's not quite Metroid, but reaching certain spells takes some extra skill.

Older gamers who thrive on challenges will adore Moon Diver. It's a hard game and, if you're not prepared, it will eat you alive. It's a niche title with limited appeal. If you don't mind repetitive action or repeatedly getting kicked in the face, Moon Diver is for you. Otherwise, skip it.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.