Moonscars Review (Switch eShop) | Nintendo Life

Shot on Nintendo Switch (handheld/without dock)

Everyone is ready yet another Soulful? Yes, we thought so. However, Black Mermaid’s Moonscars has been garnering attention ever since it was first announced, thanks to its rather exquisitely detailed pixel art. It’s a delightfully dark 2D metroidvanian slasher that reminds us a little of Motion Twin’s dazzling Dead Cells, albeit with much more gritty environments and meticulously animated combat. But how does all this beautiful murder actually play out?

Well, all in all, it’s something of a fireworks show, an attractive combination of great serve and sharp fight. However, this port of the Switch has fairly consistent framerate issues that keep us from getting exactly what we’d like. Let’s cross our fingers that Black Mermaid can fix this as soon as possible, because if these issues can be fixed, you’re looking at a super slick and stylish action game that looks fantastic and has some very clever gameplay wrinkles. his bloodied sleeves.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (handheld/without dock)

In Moonscars, you take on the role of Gray Clay Warrior Irma, a seemingly unstoppable force of nature on a super-violent mission to find a mysterious character known only as The Sculptor in order to find out what happened to herself and her missing person. a group of fellow warriors. The action here takes place in a gloomy dark world where flesh and clay are intertwined, giving its inhabitants the ability to shape and change their bodies, master their enemies and constantly resurrect from the dead. Which is handy when you’re doing Soulslike, isn’t it.

Yes, to be completely honest, the story here is basically a total bobbin. We weren’t entirely sure what half of the cryptic conversations between characters meant as we carved a terrible trail through the campaign, but there were some interesting insights at some points. It’s no worse than the impenetrable chatter that Dark Souls itself is, and it all does a pretty good job of giving you a dark enough canvas on which to paint a really, really gory picture.

Like every other game in this now oversaturated genre, you’ll die and then resurrect in an endless cycle of death, rest by fires (or mirrors) to level up or fast travel to other locations, and spend your time hovering. around the Nexus-style Mold Workshop. Death sees you losing all the souls (bone powder) you currently have collected from enemies, meaning you will need to go back to your last death location to get them, and the various areas you traverse represent are suitable labyrinths of labyrinths. full of shortcuts and secrets that go round and round before pitting you against a relentless boss that will test your combat skills and patience to their absolute limits. So, all Soulslike checkboxes are checked.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (handheld/without dock)

However, if you find yourself starting to fall asleep reading the details of this now rather hackneyed game mechanic, you might want to shake things up a bit, as Moonscars brings a lot of excitement back into the mix with a few new additions. to gameplay and incredibly creepy combat that looks and feels fantastic thanks to some of the most detailed pixel art we’ve ever seen. Seriously, every little movement and action here is amazingly detailed, you can even see Gray Irma’s warm breath in the cold night air as she stomps through the levels, hacking and slicing the menagerie of weird and wonderful ghouls to shreds. As a result, it’s all very satisfying to get through this bloody fight that’s very hard to stop coming back to for another shot.

As you make desperate runs through enemy-infested areas – the game’s wonderful dark orchestral soundtrack accompanies you through the darkness – you fill up the Rage Gauge with every enemy you defeat. Fill the gauge all the way to the top, and you can open a menu and choose a boon based on Malice from three random options. Maybe you want your health to regenerate 15% faster, let’s attack more bite or slightly reduce the cost of using your magic. These gifts can be stacked and you can keep accumulating them until you die and lose everything. It’s a system that reminds us a bit of Dead Cells again (although it’s not a roguelike), and it gives you a lot of leeway on how to flesh out your character build each time you try to get to the next mirror save. point or boss fight.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (handheld/without dock)

The main battle differs from the regular one in other ways as well. There are no estus flasks here, instead you have an ichor gauge above the health bar that refills as you deal damage, then you just hold the button on your left shoulder to drain it and refill your life as needed. Complicating this further is the fact that your magic attacks also use Ichor, so you have to constantly choose whether you want to restore some health or yell at the enemy with huge spikes, explosive ground slams, chain boulders, magic explosions, projectile spikes, and a ton more besides. You can use any two of these magic attacks at the same time, and they all have their own benefits depending on the type of combat you’re in.

Another nice little feature is that there is no stamina bar, which gives the combat a very fast pace and allows you to dash, parry and slam into beasts with pleasure, which you really have to do if you want to keep that ichor meter. loaded and ready to use. It’s all pretty fantastic stuff, and it’s complemented by surprisingly decent platforming, superb level design across the board, and a brilliant selection of enemies that have been well-crafted to make each new area a really challenging and interesting gauntlet.

The unlockable skill tree in Moonscars is also impressively extensive, with plenty of room to create very different versions of Gray Irma in later playthroughs, and this is complemented by a huge array of amulets that do things like replenish your life when you successfully parry an attack, increase attack power or make you more resistant to projectiles. You can equip three of these amulets at once, so again, there’s plenty of room to play around with your build and adjust your approach to whatever challenges you’re currently trying to overcome.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (pinned)

On top of all this, Gray Irma also has a selection of special weapons that she can use with the “X” button; huge cutting wheels, spears, hammers and the like, and each of them gives you different benefits and privileges as you use them. You can only wield one special weapon at a time, and you can’t just leave it like that. Each time you open a new mirror, you will return to the central area of ​​the game, where the NPCs you meet will chat a little and sell you trinkets, but when you return to your last place in the world, you will need to perform a vicious fight with your doppelgänger. who will use all of your weapons, moves and skills to try and defeat you. Defeat her and you can choose new special weapons, all of which automatically level up as you progress in the game. It’s a very cool but slightly controversial mechanic, maybe not one we personally objected to, but these doppelgänger faceoffs can certainly be tricky and doing them too often might turn someone off.

Indeed, the rigidity of this game is arguably its biggest drawback at the end. To make an already tough fight a little more gritty, the developer has added a mechanic that sees the state of the world change every time you die, meaning enemies become noticeably stronger. The problem is that you need to pay one Ichor Gland every time you want to reverse the blood moon and return the world to normal. Every time you die. We had parts of the game – and one really tough boss fight in particular – where we struggled to find more Ichor Glands, leaving us with a very difficult fight that, frankly, you’ll need a lot of patience. stick without launching the controller into the air.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (pinned)

While we eventually got over that hump and the game got into a much better rhythm after that, that spike in difficulty was a sticking point and could have been tweaked a bit. What’s more, there are no easier difficulty modes or accessibility settings available, so you really have to be willing to die, so to speak, to see this through to a victorious end.

However, on top of these challenges, Moonscars offers super stylish and challenging action, full of atmospheric locations, great enemy design, terrifying boss fights (a bloody duel against a haunted swimming baby, anyone?) punchy and exquisitely animated. It’s the kind of tough old game that you’ll want to play through just to see what horrors await you next. It also improves markedly as the game progresses, with the variety of enemies and level design becoming more satisfying as you move forward and start tying areas together and get a better sense of how carefully everything is connected and constructed.

And so, we come to the account. We’d have awarded Moonscars a more generous number here – despite a few difficulty issues and only a recently fixed game launch bug – were it not for some framerate issues with this Switch version that we just can’t help but notice. The stuttering is very minimal at first, and is completely normal most of the time when you’re just darting around or fighting small groups of enemies, but it starts to get noticeably worse when multiple enemies appear on screen, as well as during some major boss fights. .

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (pinned)

In short, the frame rate is starting to get in the way of combat and therefore take away from the shine of a game that we otherwise enjoyed a lot. Naturally, your mileage will vary based on this, and it’s not game-breaking, to be clear – we made our way through and obviously enjoyed the experience no matter what – but it does make our wish that this be resolved with a patch, yet stronger.

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