First-person shooters on the DS aren't exactly in plentiful supply. Despite Nintendo proving the genre was perfectly possible and a lot of fun very early on with the DS pack-in title Metroid Prime: First Hunt, it's just not a genre the handheld has been blessed with that often. Moon, from Dementium developer Renegade Kid, is an FPS on DS, though, complete with a control scheme that does the job very well, visuals that impress and some eerie atmospheric audio. It's just a shame that the game itself is over quite quickly and gets repetitive too soon.
It's the year 2058. While working on Lunar Outpost Alpha, a geographical excavation reveals a mysterious underground structure of non-human origin. For any normal man this might come as something of a shock, but you're Major Kane, the man in charge of military operations for the Extra-Terrestrial Encounter Organisation, and you've been sent in to check it out. This is all presented with b-movie quality cutscenes and voice over work, but it fits the bill quite well and isn't something we're used to seeing on the DS. It's cheesy in the extreme, but quite enjoyable in a forgettable way.
It's a shame, then, that the gameplay doesn't try to be so ambitious. As Kane you move around the alien structure with the d-pad handling forwards, backwards and sideways movement, the stylus on the touch screen being used for aiming, the left bumper for shooting and icons on the touch screen to change weapon and interact with objects. There's no jump, which is awkward at fist, but once you've adjusted to it not being there it isn't really a problem.
To add some variety to the gameplay you can whip out a drone and drive it around areas that Kane is too big to fit into. It controls more or less the same as Kane, but it fires off an electrical blast that can disable shield generators and doors. For the first few times controlling the drone is decent fun, but it soon becomes tiresome when you're having to carry out more or less the same task in what seems like every other room. It's also extremely vulnerable to enemy fire, and if it's destroyed it's game over. Moon features plenty of hidden items, usually only accessible by the drone, but they're always marked on your map making their discovery less exciting than if you had to really hunt them down.
Moon's real problem is that the majority of its five-hour play-time is incredibly repetitive. You'll move deeper and deeper into the underground alien structure, but other than some colour changes and the odd bit of new scenery, it's all very samey. It's not that the game doesn’t look good, as it's one of the most impressive technical achievements we've seen on Nintendo's handheld, but the shine is worn off by fighting the same enemies over and over again, and wandering through similar hallways time after time. Audio in the game is far more successful, with some great atmospheric music and sound effects. Moon isn't as creepy as Renegade Kid's previous title Dementium, but it's still quite unnerving at times.
Outside of the repetition there's an issue with save points and their frequency. There are no checkpoints, so if you die some way from your last save (carried out by interacting with special terminals), you're forced to replay a fairly large chunk of game. For lots of the game this isn't an issue, but occasionally you'll likely repeatedly die at the same point, only to have to trek there again, wasting time in the process. There's no multiplayer functionality either, so once you're done with the campaign there's little to come back for.
Moon is technically ambitious but does little to make a name for itself in terms of gameplay. The campaign, despite being short, ends up feeling like a bit of a slog and the use of the drone loses its appeal after an hour or so. The controls and presentation are top of their class, but without a really enjoyable game to back them up Moon ends up feeling like a missed opportunity.