Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Moon Sliver


Developer: David Szymanski
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Genre: Adventure

One Sentence Review:
Poor graphics and sound design, but a good story nonetheless.

For the price I got it at, I didn't really walk into this game with the highest expectations. As much as I don't like to admit it I do have some preconceptions of a game based on its price. And so do you. The game was an interesting experiment to say the least, and obviously one of the first attempts at a game by this particular developer, but it was a failed experiment nonetheless.


Genre Mechanics

The game takes a leaf out of Dear Esther and Gone Home's shared booklet. It's a walking simulator. Now I'm not like the people who say that a game has to have some element of gameplay to be considered worthwhile. In fact I actually liked both Dear Esther and Gone Home! But the those games had solid graphics, story, and sound design to make up for their lack of gameplay while The Moon Sliver has... some of these.

The major issue with The Moon Sliver is its attempt to be non-linear. The game encourages exploration as you wander around the island and try to find papers so you can piece together the story of what happened. It wouldn't be half-bad if everything was linear and clear cut but if you miss a single piece of paper you can spend an hour looking for it. The strength of Dear Esther and Gone Home was their linear gameplay and while exploration was possible it wasn't required. In this game it feels like padding.

Storyline

The story in the Moon Sliver is actually not bad. I don't want to spoil it but it begins with you exploring an abandoned village on an island in the middle of nowhere. You find papers and documents that piece together the lives and personalities of the inhabitants as well as their relationships and their personal dramas. The smaller stories surround and influence the bigger story of the Moon Sliver, a strange rock held in a temple on the island. It's a well put together story and if it were in a novel or a book I'd probably read it.

World Design and Graphics

This is another one of my catching points. You see, I complained about the enforced exploration of the game's world and frankly if the world looked absolutely gorgeous then I wouldn't mind so much. Unfortunately the world does not look gorgeous. It looks very, very cheap.

The textures are low quality, the water is poorly done, the ground textures are a little weird, and there is this distinct mismatch where some props and textures actually look good. You'd think that last part would be a saving grace but it just makes the unflattering parts look even more unflattering. I would've preferred everything to look cheap or everything to look awesome, this just isn't an area of game design where meeting halfway is acceptable.

Now as for the actual design of the world, it's not half bad. There are problems, like some props blocking the way to necessary documents, but what game doesn't have at least one right? If the textures weren't so mismatched then I could get into how well thought out every piece in the game is. The houses make sense, storage makes sense, the temple is exactly where you'd expect, and the secret bunker is exactly where I'd expect it to be. Then again I'm a weirdo.

Summary

When you make a game you can generalize all the parts of it into gameplay, sound, graphics, story, and design. Arguably you can include optimization but let's keep it simple here. A good walking simulator removes gameplay and boosts up the remaining four sections by a considerable margin to compensate for it. The Moon Sliver removes gameplay, replaces it with a poorly laid out scavenger hunt, has cheap graphics, and the sound is nothing special. It tries with a good story, but it just isn't enough to compensate for the loss. The game is currently priced at $2.00 USD and I'm not entirely sure it's worth that when you consider Downwell is priced at $3.99. I'd say $1.00 USD is a fair price and maybe the story is worth the original price tag.