The Sun and Moon ReviewNovember 19, 2014
As video game genres go, platformers are much akin to one’s weird uncle. They often try too hard to fit in and their style hasn’t evolved since the 80’s, yet their quirkiness and downright refusal to change somehow makes them all the more endearing.
The Sun and Moon – a minimalistic platformer with simplistic controls & a repetitive beat – is no exception. Winner of the Ludum Dare (a worldwide, well-respected game creation competition), The Sun and Moon is the work of Sydney-based indie game developer, Daniel Linssen, who has taken his barebones competition game and turned it into a fully-fleshed out title.
Fans of the genre, and indeed anyone who picks up a platformer, expect simple controls and a minimalistic interface (without fancy audio or visual effects), yet also want solid, enjoyable content. Gamers want cake, and they want to eat it, too. They would also like a range of other delicacies catered to their palate, all affordable on a modest budget. In short, platformers are a hard sell for the modern audience.
The success (or demise) of a platformer rests solely on the shoulders of its gameplay mechanics. Innovation, ingenuity and probably some other i-words are the order of the day, and gamers are eager to find new, engaging approaches to traditional styles of play.
In this regard, The Sun and Moon has grasped a very unique approach to gameplay that helps it stand out from other titles.
Instead of being limited to the traditional gameplay directions (up, left, right), players of The Sun & Moon can defy gravity and propel themselves downward into the ground in their ongoing quest to collect three shiny orbs and advance to the next level.
This unique mechanic is the definitive highlight of the game as a whole. Forcing players to rethink classic strategies of beating platform puzzles is no easy feat, but The Sun and Moon does so in a way that is simple to pick up, yet challenging to master. With over 150 levels of gameplay (ranging in difficulty from easy to what the developer describes as “brutally hard”), players will likely enjoy the fun dynamics this feature of the game creates.
Given this new game mechanic, the difficulty level of the game is mostly appropriate. Adjusting to the downward movement (and combination key presses) takes a few tries, but is not so cumbersome as to make the game impossible. Level design is not overly complex, yet some of the maps provide a significant challenge, striking a good balance between enjoyment from beating a level and the frustration that drives players forward.
For the competitive gamers, timed completion (in the form of gold, silver, bronze awards) compliment the puzzle-solving aspects of each level well. It is certainly not easy to gain a gold time, and very rarely on a first attempt. A non-linear level progression is, likewise, a novel approach to the classic platformer. It can be fun to hop around, especially when players need a break from that one level they just can’t beat.
Visually, The Sun and Moon is less aesthetically pleasing than similar titles. Although it is very clear the focus has been put on engaging gameplay, players might occasionally feel that a few splashes of color and backdrop changes would not go amiss.
The game’s audio track is provided by Dubmood and is extremely well done. It avoids the cutesy soundtrack of so many platform titles, and provides the game with an injection of frenetic, rising atmosphere that doesn’t make you want to scratch your ears off in frustration.
That’s a very good thing.
The Sun and Moon is, without a doubt, one of the most innovative platform titles of this year. For its unique twist on the traditional style alone, gamers should consider adding it to their collection, with the simplicity of control and great audio sealing the deal.
For what it’s worth, the only factor that might cause hesitation on purchasing this title, although not unreasonable, should be its release price, which might especially be the case for gamers who aren’t sold on platformers.
The Sun and Moon hits Steam on Friday November 14th for $10.