Moon Hunters - Review  

I Wish I Was the Moon Tonight
by Sam Wachter

Less than 20 Hours
+ Personality test concept is delightful
+ Beautiful soundtrack
+ Overall gameplay is solid
- Online co-op is still in the works
- Not as good solo
- Too short
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   Back in 2015 I had the pleasure of meeting some of the people working at Kitfox Games. They provided a hands-on experience of Moon Hunters while it was still in its alpha phase during the Toronto Comics Art Festival. My best friend and I had an opportunity to give this personality-testing RPG a whirl, and we were quite smitten with it. How does the completed game fare, however? Let's spin a tale, shall we?

   In the world of Mercuria, the Moon is the source of all magic and spiritual power. On one particular evening, the Moon does not rise and it causes quite the panic. As one of the Moon's chosen disciples, players are tasked with the goal of restoring balance to the world of Mercuria in five days, while also stopping the rise of the Sun Cult, and the demons that are now inhabiting the world.

   The premise of Moon Hunters is straightforward, but it's brought to life with gorgeous writing that draws players into the world. It's a very atmospheric realm that players are given the chance to explore, and with every story being procedurally generated, no two playthroughs will be entirely alike. The writing is also made stronger through the game's personality test system. While players are roaming through procedurally generated maps, they will be presented with decisions that need to be made. These decisions determine what kind of hero the player is, and the legacy they will leave as a constellation in the sky.

Meet your sunny doom. Meet your sunny doom.

    Co-op play makes these sections even more interesting, as the players can make different decisions for any given situation and the game will decide which one to use. This makes for engaging gameplay and friends can argue which decisions will provide the better outcome, whether it's helping people who are ill, killing thieves, or just whether or not to stop and pray at a shrine. Decisions are a huge part of this game, and it's a lot of fun to see what happens when co-op partners disagree. The decision outcome is usually based on who has the higher charisma. Though Moon Hunters can be played solo, it's a better experience when cooperatively played. The only downside at the moment is that only local co-op is enabled, and this game begs for the online version as a main feature.

   A playthrough of Moon Hunters is surprisingly short, as it takes roughly thirty to forty-five minutes per run. However, one interesting aspect is that the stories from previous playthroughs carry into the next. Being a procedurally generated game, it means that maps, objectives, and even enemy types will always be different, which does add a lot of variety to the game. That being said, the length is fantastic for a co-op experience, but playing it solo makes the shortness of the experience very noticeable.

   Players can choose between four initial classes: Occulist, Witch, Druid, and Spellblade. Each comes with its own play style, sporting strong and weak attacks, as well as a dodge and special ability. The controls are smooth and responsive, and the gameplay is fast and action-packed. This is where playing solo can get tricky, as there are tons of cases where enemies will swarm and pick the player off if not careful. Death results in the loss of a full day, which can be problematic. Playing Moon Hunters co-op allows for the fun of smashing through enemies, while also feeling a lot less overwhelmed by the amount of enemies on screen. Skill upgrades must be purchased, and sometimes they cost quite the pretty penny. However, it's not impossible to beat the game without upgrading one's skills.

Wanna hang in my tree fort? Wanna hang in my tree fort?

   Other unique aspects that contribute to the changes within one's playthroughs come from the campsite visited after a level has been completed. At the campsite players can boost different stats by performing a special task such as cooking, standing on guard, napping, or stargazing. Different people that have been helped or harmed along the way can also appear at the campsite, and decisions made from other playthroughs can show up as well. These little additions make each experience in Moon Hunters feel unique, and it adds a lot of appeal to replay the game and see what could happen next time around.

   Moon Hunters sports an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack that varies with each location. The main theme is serene and calming, while different areas offer a range between upbeat and ambient tunes. Graphically, the game offers stellar pixel artwork that has an intense amount of detail. Levels are beautiful to traverse through, and the little touches in the animation such as the movement of leaves really bring areas to life.

   I was a fan of Moon Hunters back when I played it at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival back in 2015, and I'm still enamoured with the game now. There is just so much in Moon Hunters' small package that it makes for a great co-op experience, and I can only hope Kitfox gets the online going soon for another layer of enjoyment. While playing the game solo is a little less fun, it's interesting to see how my characters were going to be remembered in the world at the end of the game. Moon Hunters is a gem, and deserves to be a memorable constellation in the indie games scene.

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