Arcade Moonlander – Getting my rocket parking license

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Don’t you know that feeling? You want to do something else but writing or streaming, but can’t come up with what? That’s an issue that I deal with often, since I don’t want to boot up a bigger game whenever I’m not streaming. And most of the time I just end up wasting my time watching YouTube videos. And then I looked at my Steam library and thought ”it’s time to stop”. So I did the next best reasonable thing and started working through some shorter games that have found their way into my library one way or another. But given that most of these games were games that ended up there as luggage in bundles for other games I wanted, most of them unsurprisingly didn’t amuse me, and also aren’t worthy of a review. So I looked a bit further to see if there were short games that I would also most likely enjoy, or at least not hate my life for playing them. In comes Arcade Moonlander, a black-and-white space adventure game that looked interesting to me. And given that we’re here talking about it now, it’s a game that I wanted to share my opinion about. So let’s get on to it!

The idea behind the game is pretty simple: you’re a rocket in space, and you have to land on the moon. At least, half of the time I’m pretty sure I’m not on the moon and instead on some random asteroid, but the point stands. But of course, it would be a boring game if the landing spot would be right below you; then you would just have to descend slowly and make a good landing. The landing spot is somewhere on the map, indicated by the radar pointing you towards the destination.

It might take some getting used to controlling the rocket–specifically with landing, as going even slightly too fast makes it a crash. And that goes for basically anything, as even hitting the tiniest of pixels will result in the rocket going kaboom. But fortunately, I found the overall controls of the rocket to be pretty satisfying. You’re always being dragged to the ground by the gravitational pull, but slightly pressing the ascend button makes it quite easy to hover and go through the tougher challenges. Turning is also instant, and there’s a boost button to go even faster or make descends a bit more manageable whenever you’re going too fast. This also consumes more fuel, so it adds a bit of risk versus reward to the gameplay. The rocket can only be refuelled by cans that are randomly placed in the level, occasionally not on the road to the destination.

And the 30 levels also reflect what this game is all about: an ”easy” game to pick up and play, but tough to master. I usually took it easy with slow speeds and hovers to make it through small alleyways as I just wanted to beat the level, and I figure that will be the case for most people playing through this game for the first time due to the medium to high difficulty. But with the mobile ”skating” movement of the rocket, the boost, and later levels having more shortcuts, it’s clear that this game is especially geared towards speedrunners that like to take risks. Every single level also has its own leaderboard, though I do consider it a bit of a shame that the leaderboard is not in-game, and also that more could have been done with it. I’m mostly talking about ghosts, to see how other people fared on the levels and what strategies they used. Some shortcuts are pretty nasty, and I would like to see how other people did them to better train myself.

But with the mobile ”skating” movement of the rocket, the boost, and later levels having more shortcuts, it’s clear that this game is especially geared towards speedrunners that like to take risk.

And replayability is important as all levels can be beaten in less than an hour depending on skill; for me, it took about 40 minutes while I was drinking on a Friday night. These levels were all pretty fun to go through so that definitely helps, but I also really liked the two other modes the game had to offer.

I mentioned fuel cans being placed randomly in levels before, and some were completely off the road, with no incentive to go for them aside from curiosity. The curiosity unfortunately isn’t really rewarded, but the Adventure mode makes exploring the entire purpose. This is the mode I like the most, as you’re thrown into a big map with only a destination. How to get there? Go wild. Multiple routes to take right from the start, branching pathways and even some new mechanics are introduced in this mode. It’s a genuinely expansive map that you can spend at least half an hour exploring everything, but I craved for more. I would have liked to see more maps, but this is unfortunately the only one.

Arcade-Moonlander-Adventure-Mode

The procedural mode is not something I can say a lot about yet as it’s still in beta, but as the name implies, it randomly generates new and unique levels. This is currently still a bit simple with pretty basic levels, but it is still in development so maybe we’ll see more of it in the future. And I definitely do like the idea that the levels are generated depending on what you want: survivability with stages that procedurally get harder, or time trial to make it the fastest through a set of 10 generated stages.

Arcade Moonlander is a fun casual pick-up-and-play game with an emphasis on gameplay that’s easy to understand, and hard to master. This is because the levels are both designed to be tough with many obstacles that you need to take your time for, but are ultimately designed around speedrunning, with many risky alleyways and shortcuts to take for the fastest time. Furthermore, the explorative crowd can also go wild as the levels have secrets in them, though don’t expect to be rewarded for your curiosity. That’s what we have the Adventure mode for fortunately, which is one big map with multiple ways to your destination. Though unfortunately, it is also the only map, and I definitely would have liked to see more as the game itself isn’t very long. And despite the game being focused on speedrunning, there are few in-game options that would benefit speedrunners. The leaderboards are only in the Steam client for example, and there are no ghosts to race against or for the purpose of training. But the game has seen updates in the past few years as well as a new mode called Procedural mode that randomly generates new stages so who knows what more is in store for us? But regardless of what’s ahead, you can’t go wrong with this short charming arcade title.

6.0

Nepiki's Rating

Overall rating

Game Score
6.0
Fun Score
6.0
Positives
  • Good distinction between casual play and speedrunning.
  • Adventure more kept me wanting for more.
  • Experimental procedural mode.
Negatives
  • No speedrunning benefits in-game.
  • Only one map for Adventure mode.

Thank you for reading! I mentioned it in the introduction as well, but this was part of me going through my library and getting rid of some games, some of which I know are terrible beforehand and others that look interesting, including this one. So hey, maybe some more mini-reviews will follow in the future. That Steam library of mine is endless after all…

Also know, I say that I know ”some games are terrible beforehand” but I don’t judge games before I play them. I always want to give them a fair chance. It’s just that some games really ask for it and frankly, I don’t want to review them. It would end up as 1s or 2s, and the review itself wouldn’t be that interesting.

I have no idea why I’m talking about this on a completely unrelated game review but hey, I like writing!

What is your favourite pick-up-and-play game?

For me, it would probably be Bejeweled 3. I can keep playing that over and over again, for a few minutes or hours, and never get tired of it.

About author

Nepiki

A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!

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