Moons of Darsalon, developed by Dr. Kucho! Games and published by Astrolabe Games, is a retro, lemmings-like platformer where players must safely rescue hapless darsanauts by solving puzzles and issuing commands.
Everything from the MS-DOS introduction prompt to the CRT TV graphics to the groovy 8-bit music soundtrack transported me back to my childhood when I booted up Moons of Darsalon on Steam. An indie title with elements from games like Lemmings and Abe’s Odyssey, players assume the role of a darsanaut tasked with rescuing his stranded comrades by issuing commands to mindless AI willing to follow him to the ends of the planet Darsalon and beyond.
Fun, challenging, and super creative, here was my experience after playing (and getting stomped by) Moons of Darsalon.
The Game is Hard
I’d be lying to you if I said that the game didn’t make me want to scream out in pain like the Angry Video Game Nerd playing Ninja Gaiden. Moons of Darsalon is not an easy game — and even the title’s first few levels may have you scratching your head or raging at your controller after you fall off a cliff for the 10th time in a row.
The game is broken into several levels, each with increasing difficulty and four different objectives for the player to complete for stars. In each level are stranded darsanauts, and you’ll have to use various items and vehicles to safely get your buddies to a transport ship at the end of each stage.
Just like the music and graphics, the core gameplay in Moons of Darsalon is similar to classic platforming games, where jumping on the wrong pixel is the difference between falling to your doom or making it to the next part of the level. You’ll likely find yourself repeating levels, dying, then trying all over again. The game knows it’s hard and will taunt you in between levels with in-game text.
For kids of the 90s, this will be the perfect nostalgia trip. Yes, the game is hard. Yes, you have to memorize the level and still might lose. And yes, you’ll yell, “Come on! I made that jump!” to no one in the room but you and the game — but that’s part of the fun. With 30 levels and community-created missions available, this small indie title has a lot of replayability.
The only issue I have with the game’s difficulty is the star requirement you’ll need as you climb the ranks. Just completing the level isn’t enough stars to continue through the levels, so you’re forced to go back to get a higher rank in a certain level to progress. This makes it somewhat annoying when you just want to keep going through the game to experience all the levels.
A Quirky, Unconventional Title
Moons of Darsalon succeeds in being unique and creative both in story and core gameplay. While there aren’t any CGI cutscenes or sweeping narratives, Dr. Kucho has finely crafted a world that is unique to the title. The game maintains an overall tongue-in-cheek vibe throughout, and the darsanaut quips and complaints made me chuckle a few times throughout my playthrough.
As much as the core gameplay may be inspired by Lemmings or Abe’s Odyssey, Moons of Darsalon is its own game. For one, the game has a pretty decent amount of items that you can get, from a bread-and-butter laser gun to a terraformer gun called the “Ground Maker” that you can use to create ground bridges over gaps.
The game also has a decent amount of mobility options depending on the level, including a jetpack that you can get really good at using and various vehicles, including a transport spaceship that stores a ton of darsanauts in it. Landing that thing and seeing all of them get away to safety was super satisfying.
Visually, the game looks inspired by a multitude of iconic titles, from the 3D elements reminiscent of SNES games like Donkey Kong Country to the 8/16-bit models used for the darsanauts themselves, to the realistic terrain harkening back to the original Worms games, things may be borrowed, but it creates a wholly unique aesthetic.
The Chiptune Soundtrack is Infectious
The soundtrack is one of the first things you’ll notice when you start the game. Reminiscent of the 90s when systems like Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis reigned supreme, the music is a blast from the past with a modern twist.
As you progress through the levels, you’ll encounter the game’s music numbers, some of which are iconic modern songs you’ll recognize, while others are original works.
And it would make sense too. The game’s creator, Dr. Kucho himself, is actually a DJ as well as a game developer, and you can tell that thought was put behind the music and how it sets the tone for the game.
The only downside is the fact that you die so often that you’ll probably hear a lot of these tunes repeated — though there’s enough variety there to keep the music on throughout the duration of the campaign.
Moons of Darsalon is a challenging retro platformer that tasks the player with directing NPC units to safety in the ilk of other “save-them-all” games. With various alien-destroying items, an awesome soundtrack, and unique gameplay, I recommend Moons of Darsalon to any gamer who misses the days of difficult side-scrolling platformers.
Moons of Darsalon Review
Moons of Darsalon is a unique and creative 2D retro platformer where players must save hapless AI companions by changing the landscape and issuing commands. While the gameplay can be incredibly challenging at times, the nostalgic 8-bit soundtrack, pixel graphics, and inventive items and vehicles make this a must-have for any gamer who can appreciate a retro platformer with a modern twist.
Moons of Darsalon is available on Steam.
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PC Review Copy provided.