12/01/2018

☆ Review: Orange Moon "A moody 2D exploratory platformer that needs some screws tightened" ☆

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Orange Moon

Platform reviewed: PC (Steam)

Rating: Melting

Orange Moon begins promisingly enough; you are dropped on a distinctly orange Moon with some weapons and ammo to begin your mission, a mission that is split into days and involved traversing the harsh landscape looking for resources. 

The game sets a solid mood and has great, sharp graphics and a suitably minimalist audio approach but sadly has some serious issues that unfortunately impact the game quite severely that make playing it a chore.

I’ll start with the positives of Orange Moon, it has a very Amiga 1200 vibe to it that I was instantly on-board with, the graphics are chunky and your space suit feels weighty and has believable mobility.  The weapon designs reminded me of the styles used in the James Herbert graphic Novel ‘The City’ (aided by the orange hue to the entire game) which added to the retro-futuristic vibe.

The game works thus, your mission is to travel a set section of the map and completing various goals before reaching the end of level pickup point. As you jetpack your way around the moon, you’ll learn that the game is as much about ammo conservation and exploration as it is about killing enemies which adds some variety to what could have been a dull experience. 

You start with three main weapons, a flame-thrower which is useful for burning your way through the plants that block your way (and which, after burning give off much-needed health boosts) but isn’t useful for much else, as it doesn’t harm most enemies. Your second weapon is a machine-gun which for reasons I’ll go into later is a challenge to use properly and finally, a grenade-launcher which is extremely powerful but has a limited supply of ammo and you need to aim carefully to work out the trajectory of the grenade. There are other unlockable weapons such as a shotgun, but this three make-up your starting armoury.


As you make your way around the moon, you’ll come across enemies both organic and constructed. Rocket firing turrets, spiked animals and strange floating lights that lurch towards you will make up the bulk of these and each needs a different weapon to destroy it. There are also secret areas that hold precious extra ammo, health packs and upgrade points. The game holds quite a hefty upgrade system which unlocks new weapons, shotguns, hand-cannons etc. as well as the usual extra armour, and stronger ammo.

Orange Moon also features some simple puzzles, from destroying switches, planting beacons for mining purposes and collecting crystals to lower obelisks, all are implemented in a way that makes the game more than a standard ‘move left to right’ platform game and the planet’s natural terrain defences make movement tricky. The music is sparse and the audio is a throbbing hum occasionally broken by the static of radio transmissions and cracks of gunfire as you fight your way through the level. These are the good things about Orange Moon, and they do set a great mood of isolated desolation.

Now for the things that I didn’t love so much about Orange Moon and which bring this down from being a recommended purchase.

The control system is one of the worst I’ve ever come across in any game. The mapping of the buttons is absolutely diabolical and appears to be unchangeable in-game. To give an example, to jump/thrust, you press the left thumb-stick in. Any game that uses the ‘L3 / R3’ buttons for an action that the player will constantly need is instantly awkward, especially when the right shoulder button is wasted as a ‘statistics’ button that shows you how long you’ve been in the level, secrets you’ve found and enemies left alive. This is all information that could just be on the pause screen, freeing up this button for jumping or the grenade launcher (which is mapped to R3). So, if I am standing by some spikes but need to double jump, move in the air to get the trajectory right to fire a grenade at a turret that is above me, I’d have to press the left thumb-stick in twice, waggle the same thumbstick around to get the arc right and then push in the right thumb-stick to fire the grenade launcher….it’s so, so cumbersome. The game features multiple sections where you need to traverse difficult terrain like acid pools, spiked ceilings as well as enemy fire and other things so you are constantly awkwardly jumping around.


Another huge issue is that the gun aiming is mapped to the right thumb-stick but doesn’t work properly, you can’t just push up and down, you need to push to the side and then up / down to move your guns and this doesn’t always work.  One of the main enemies in the game is a ball of light that rushes towards you whenever it approaches you, so when you see it on screen you only have a couple of seconds to react but because of the control system, you often get hit and waste ammo as you try to lock onto it with unresponsive controls, resulting in cheap deaths. Yes, the deadliest enemy in this game is the control system.

Another issue was the general game stability. I noticed a few graphical quirks on some screens but ignored them, however, there was a section in the game where I needed to load crystals into a machine to lower pillars so that I could proceed, but one of the pillars jammed. I assumed that this was supposed to happen as part of the narrative so wasted a few grenades on it and wandered around looking for a switch or something but no, it was a glitch that seemed to happen which I picked up the crystals in the wrong order as it happened a couple of times, resulting in me needing to restart the section. 

The game does auto-save regularly but I had issues with the game crashing upon re-loading a few times and this, combined with the control scheme made me stop playing in day 3 of the game as the levels were getting more challenging and  the combination of losing progress due to the occasional crashing and cheap deaths from struggling with the controls battered me into submission.

Summary
It’s a real shame that such issues ruined the game for me as I am a real fan of its mood and presentation. However, looking at the Steam comments people have been making comments and submitting the bugs I’ve mentioned about the control systems for months and still, they persist which I have to assume means that they won’t change. 

The crashes that affect progress are also unforgivable as it turns the game into a repetitive chore when it should be about forwarding momentum. The ammo management, upgrades and all other aspects of the game are fun and well-implemented in Orange Moon… but those controls…
RATING: MELTING

Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

Game Link: Steam
Dev Link: Betelgeuse Zero

Review By Britt