Statues that come to life, monstrous creatures and a moon that looms menacingly in the sky of a soulslike metroidvania in shades of gray: the review by Moonscars.
Castlevania, Dark Souls and a generous dose of Blasphemous are the ingredients of the new soulslike metroidvania developed by Black Mermaid, debuting on PC and consoles. Moonscars is a game that right from the start shows a clear stylistic code, which emerges among the pictorial traits of characters and settings, the virtuosity of some two-dimensional animations and an almost monochromatic palette.
It is a dark and disturbing world, the one created by the authors of the game, yet we will have to explore it far and wide in search of passages, walls that can be destroyed, switches that open doors or operate elevators; saving whenever possible at mirrors that simultaneously bring all slain enemies back to life, and using the bone dust collected so far to unlock new abilities.
However, we will be willing to do this and more to soothe the pain and anguish of Gray Irma, a clay statue into which a mysterious Sculptor has infused life. For what? We tell you about it in the Moonscars review.
Clay, bones and a drop of immortal blood: this used the mysterious Sculptor to give life to his creatures, shaped in the image and likeness of human beings but in reality endowed with skills far superior to those of a normal person. Like Frankenstein’s new monsters, however, the warriors rebelled against their creator, abandoning him one after another.
Gray Irma, the most perfect of these creatures, awakens after being overwhelmed by monsters, in the grip of pain: a voice tells her to find the Sculptor, and so she once again takes up the sword and makes her way among the pathetic beasts that besiege the castle in search of the only person who can help her. However, this is not an epilogue: the mission of the protagonist of Moonscars has just begun.
So much the elements metroidvania as much as the contaminations soulslike appear very evident from the first sequences of Moonscars. The character we control is equipped with a sword with which to hit the enemies, even with a charged blow that can eventually hurl the opponent on duty against the spikes that often adorn the walls and floors of the scenario.
The jump allows Gray Irma to move across the platforms while parade And click constitute her defensive maneuvers, in particular the second: a forward throw that lasts for a few moments and, if performed at the right time, allows the warrior to avoid suffering damage. A fundamental resource, especially at the beginning of the campaign, when our vital energy is so low that it cannot withstand more than a couple of hits.
At this juncture the level of difficulty of the experience appears decidedly punitive, perhaps too much, but the game rewards our patience quickly, delivering improvements that allow the protagonist to substantially increase her resistance, as well as restore health through the pressure of the left back, consuming the same gauge that charges when fighting and that regulates special attacks.
The latter represent a valuable addition to Gray Irma’s repertoire: they tear apart basic hostile creatures, weaken the most resistant ones and are also useful for exploration purposes, for example to destroy walls that open certain passages and create the classic shortcuts from one area to another. The tree of skills however, it appears bleak, so much so that one gets the feeling that the initial powers and related improvements are basically all the game has to offer in this regard.
The platform mechanics suffer on the Nintendo Switch from some problems in the precision of controlssince it often happens that the character does not jump as he is asked to do when he reaches the edge of a platform, which sometimes results in the need to redo a boring climb, or worse to suffer some unexpected and undeserved damage ending up on already mentioned spikes or on some enemy.
There are also three weapons extras at our disposal, all characterized by considerable power but also by slow execution times, which make them complicated to use at best in certain situations, see for example the boss fight; as well as some bonus which amplify the abilities of Gray Irma, and are obtained after eliminating a certain number of enemies.
The “build” that can be created through this feature in a single attempt is effective, especially in the more complex game phases, but the game over is always around the corner. Fortunately, as happens in several soulslikes, upon returning we will be given the opportunity to reach the place where we died and recover the remains of the Gray Irma that preceded us, thus regaining the collected resources.
We will be able to spend them at the dark mirrors: positions that allow the saving of the position, the rapid movement from one point to another of the scenarios, the interaction with characters and merchants who are in a sort of limbo but also the birth of a doppelganger who we will find ourselves at the exit from the mirror and who will try to kill us. By beating him we will get back the extra weapon he stole from us or you can choose another one.
On the front of the variety of enemies the guys from Black Mermaid did a great job: however much the design side Moonscars suffers from the monochromatic approach, which inhibits a minimum of visual variety, the opponents we will face are numerous and divided into various types, with attack patterns well defined that must be memorized in order to implement the necessary countermeasures.
A discourse that naturally also extends to boss, large or small: the outcome of the clashes is always linked to our ability to read the moves of the monster on duty and perform the dodge to avoid damage, or quickly recover some health if we have the opportunity, looking for to sink the shots whenever possible. As mentioned, the challenge after the first few hours is calmed down: someone might turn up their noses, we certainly don’t.
Moonscars refers to the tradition of metroidvania and this is also and above all with regard to the level designlinked to the alternation of platforms, doors and mechanisms to be activated in order to open certain roads and passages, but also to understand where to go in order to access the next scenario, which is not always intuitive.
Let’s say that the typical elements of the genre are all present in the game, even in a predictable way: the experience draws on well-established dynamics, and so it’s really hard to be surprised. Then there is the question of the graphic style, which if on the one hand gives a precise personality to the title of Black Mermaid, on the other it makes the locations really too similar, making our path monothematic.
If it is true that the Nintendo Switch version suffers in some moments of completely unjustified shots and uncertainties, which we hope will be fixed with the next updates, from a technical point of view Moonscars is a product solid and convincingthanks to excellent two-dimensional animations and a style that, we have already talked about, brings with it advantages and disadvantages.
That the graphics it is very recognizable we believe it to be a strong point, but insisting on shades of gray interspersed with flashes of bright red for the duration of the campaign, even in the menu screens, maybe it was not a great idea. However, we respect the coherence of the authors, which is also expressed through a soundtrack devoid of passages that remain etched, yet capable of contributing to the general atmosphere.
Tested version Nintendo Switch
Steam, PlayStation Store, Xbox Store, Nintendo eShop
Moonscars is a soulslike metroidvania very well characterized on a stylistic level, for better or for worse, and with a solid and convincing gameplay, even if anything but original. The lack of experimentation that goes beyond the artistic aspects of the experience is a bit disappointing and on the mechanical level the campaign runs without high notes, apart from perhaps an initial impact that is too rough. However, if you appreciate the genre, the Black Mermaid title can certainly offer you a few hours of enjoyable entertainment, however, at an affordable price or even at no cost if you are an Xbox Game Pass subscriber.
- Stylistically very well characterized
- Solid gameplay, varied and numerous enemies
- Fascinating history, great atmosphere
- Not very original mechanics and structure
- Monothematic graphic style feels heavy after a while
- Some technical problems on the Nintendo Switch
#Moonscars #review #Black #Mermaids #soulslike #metroidvania
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