Savage Moon

Settling on another planet can be, as the terraformers on LV-426 discovered in Aliens, a somewhat hazardous experience. The process is usually made even more traumatic when the new residents decide to setup some sort of mining operation, usually involving dark caves and other dangerous landscape features. It seems natural to expect, then, that when mining colonies are setup across numerous inhospitable space rocks in Savage Moon, with each operation unwisely collocated with nests of bugs, beetles and other baddies, things may not go exactly according to plan. Thanfully though, the military might backing each mining operation in Savage Moon is considerable, with a powerful tower turrets available to deploy at a moments notice, launched from space and jetted in to defend ground operations. What results is a tower strategy game much like the highly successful PixelJunk Monsters, with tactical thinking and quick reactions of paramount importance.

Savage Moon

Comparisons with the PixelJunk title are inevitable, and don't particularly harm either game, simply because both games succeed in their own unique way, despite their obvious similarity. While both games revolve around resource management, allowing players limited funds with which to create and upgrade turrets that must defend a given civilization against waves of incoming enemies, each has a very unique feel, with some key differences that seperate the two experiences. The most obvious difference is the dark nature of Savage Moon, featuring realistic, gritty visuals, aggressive-looking, scary alien creatures, menacing music and a far more military feel. The focus on technology is also very noticeable, with weapons fitting any good science-fiction film, including satellite lasers, heavy gun emplacements and mortar launchers, complemented by repair bases and other protective devices. This is all in direct contrast to the bright and colourful nature of PixelJunk Monsters, which featured charming visuals, cutesy enemies and a far more playful soundtrack, surrounding an entirely organic game.

As with any good tower defence game, each turret has a specific use, proving extremely effective against particular enemies (picking certain attributes such as fast movement, heavy armour or, rather more obviously, flight) but almost entirely ineffective against others. It's this dynamic that forces the player to think tactically, planning which turrets to deploy, upgrade or recall according to the situation. Position also has a significant impact, with the various types of turret capable of striking from quite different ranges. The levels in Savage moon usually feature valleys, surrounded by menacing rock faces, that funnel the aliens in a particular direction, inevitably terminating at your base. Through careful placement of block towers, enemies can be deflected or steered through a particular path, to allow you to focus your firepower at a particular location. This adds an extra layer of tactics, particularly since there's always a risk that your defences will be breached.

Savage Moon

Though there's nothing wrong with the gameplay in Savage Moon, it never quite feels as clinical, polished and precise as PixelJunk Monsters, with perhaps the focus on more-realistic visuals detracting slightly from the gameplay itself. There's a lot to be said for keeping things simple sometimes, and the PixelJunk formula seems to be exactly that: using simplicity to aid a particular gameplay mechanic. Savage Moon is perhaps disadvantaged in that, having arrived second in this quite specific genre on PS3, the game is expected to do something quite different to succeed; a requirement that is not met by a change in mood and visual style. The technology side of things does advance the genre slightly, but not necessarily in a way that makes the game more fun. It's not the sort of game that leads to moments of pure joy or happy exclamations, going for grit over dazzle.

It feels slightly unfair to criticize Savage Moon, since the game is indeed very good, but it lacks evolution. For those put off by the look of PixelJunk Monsters, perhaps Savage Moon's sci-fi setting is more appealing. With both titles there's a lot of highly enjoyable tactical play to be found, and both provide a serious challenge. The difficulty curve in Savage Moon ramps up quickly, with many levels requiring multiple playthroughs to perfect the tower strategy. Aiding the longevity of the game, there are also trophies to collect (mostly revolving around level completion, and doing so without taking any damage, for example), and there are other modes (including an entertaining survival mode where waves of enemies are unleashed relentlessly until you fail) to complement the main story missions. That said, the game is quite expensive in the store title arena, which is becoming increasingly more common in recent times. Where PixelJunk Monsters arrived at less than five pounds, Savage Moon costs seven, which isn't justified by the comparitive qualities of each game. Perhaps the key element to any decision about this game is this: do you really love tower strategy games? If the answer to that is yes, then both Savage Moon and PixelJunk Monsters are ideal purchases, with the latter perhaps still maintaining the edge.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sony

Developer:

FluffyLogic

Players:

1

Online:

None

Release:

2008-12-24

Trophies:

20

Review summary

Gameplay:

A clever strategy game with tonnes of choice

Graphics:

Fairly basic, but it handles a lot on screen

Sound:

Also basic, but with decent music and cannon noises

Lastability:

There's plenty of replay value and targets to achieve

7.2

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