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Brain damage

The dark side of the DS's Moon
By MADDY MYERS  |  February 3, 2009
2.5 2.5 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Moon

Moon | For the Nintendo DS | Rated T for Teen | Developed by Renegade Kid | Published by Mastiff
Given all the trouble down here on Earth, it may just be a matter of time before we terrestrial residents begin to colonize space. In Moon, Renegade Kid's new shooter for the DS, the US has already arrived on the title satellite, only to find an obstacle to our intergalactic imperialism: Mooninites. (Remember them, Boston?) Earthlings on the moon base discover a hidden hatch leading underground, and it's your mission — well, protagonist Major Kane's mission — to learn what lurks in the lunar tunnels.

Moon parallels the complexity and difficulty of every major Metroid title. Think carefully before selecting "Normal" on the options screen, and very carefully indeed before selecting "Hard." You may want to sacrifice your pride and go with "Easy" — if you expect to defeat the game anytime soon, that is.

The top screen on the DS is where the action takes place. On the bottom screen, you use your stylus to aim and look around, and your D-pad to walk. There is no jumping in Moon — which means you have to find other ways to avoid enemy fire besides jumping around insanely à la Counter-Strike. You also cannot jump over inconveniently placed obstacles, but you can go around them or, surprise!, underneath them. Early on in the game, Major Kane finds a remote-controlled robot that can shoot temporary paralyzers. You can switch quickly between the robot's perspective and your own, using the robot much the way Samus uses her morph ball — to solve puzzles and navigate mini-mazes.

Moon requires all the skills that every good FPS player possesses: quick reflexes, speedy strafing, and excellent aim. Unfortunately, you have to call on these skills while looking at the tiny DS screen. The controls are smooth, but the learning curve is steep. You'll need to learn how to strafe like a pro almost at once, even as you keep a watchful eye on your health bar. You'll also need to learn how to coordinate your tiny bot and your human counterpart. When the two of you are separated, you'll need to be vigilant about switching perspectives back and forth. If one of you is killed, you both die. Speed and timing are essential.

The biggest nuisance about Moon is the shortage of save points. Many of the levels have none at all, so each time you die, you return to the beginning of the level. Running back through the same hallways again isn't so bad, but it's no fun rewatching dialogue while pressing "Next" as fast as you can.

I loved the graphics (60 frames per second and beautiful 3-D), the story, and the creepy floating enemies — but in the end, it's hard not to long for the slick control scheme of Metroid Prime. As I squinted into the DS's tiny screen while trying to snipe at the pixelated edges of far-off bots, it occurred to me that Moon is too ambitious to be on the DS. I'd love to play Moon 2 — but on the Wii.

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