Orange Moon, at first glance, seems like it has it all there. It know's what it is -- 2D spaceman shooter and puzzle solver -- and it looks smooth. It's almost like a Commander Keen for today's audience. But once you play a bit into it, the game's faults start to shine through.
There's not much to the story and there isn't really an over-arching plot. You are a moon prospector. There are deadly aliens there, so you also go in armed to the teeth. What you kill can be exchanged for ammunition. You can get upgrades for your suit and weapons and everything as you play, with the goal being to mine, mine, mine. And take out aliens while solving problems of course. Overall, the story isn't that important to the gameplay, but as for background to the game, it works.
I'd seen complaints about the controls from early access versions, and as a player with a keyboard, some of that was still there. Jumping and moving forward at the same time is still a bit tricky, and aiming is also a bit off – I had to eyeball a lot. Generally the controls are functional and you can do well with what you have, but it would have been a bit more fluid if some more of the kinks were worked out.
I was really disappointed by the graphics. They pull the trick of making everything black or dark so they don't need to include as much. I think they were going for creepy, but I was a little annoyed with it – it's a visual medium, and it didn't deliver. Shadowed outlines of caves and other scenery, along with a limited color palette made the visuals pretty uninteresting. There are hints of it being more detailed, like remnants of previous inhabitants coming out, but for the most part, it's pretty barren. What you would expect from the moon, but not really from a game.
The gameplay is pretty much jetting around in your suit using thrusters, shooting the baddies, mining, avoiding traps, and above all, collecting fuel and bullets. I can't tell you how much extra time was devoted to that, because everything is super limited. It's good to have limits, but it's almost to a ridiculous level. It does suck you in trying to manage it all, but it was all a little more than frustrating.
I usually talk a bit about sound and music, because they really influence a game for me, but I honestly don't know what to say here. There's always a slightly foreboding futuristic tune in the background that almost sounds dreamlike, and sounds are all wooshes, “generic ammunition pickup noise,” and blaster sounds. It's good, both sound and music, but limited. It both helped and hurt the game, because it works well, but you also want something more.
The frame-rate was fine on Steam. I had heard about being tiny ripples there, but alas, it worked just fine. In spite of everything, there were no real bugs. Shooting was a bit off, like I said earlier, but that's a control thing. It ran smoothly,with no real errors.
Orange Moon was a game I really wanted to like – those 2D run around puzzle solving shooters are fun – but on most things it was a touch wrong. It's a well fine tuned game, but they missed a few things. Like in a car, the engine would be perfect and it runs, but the body has a lot of dents and the brakes are sticky, the steering wheel pulls to the rights and occasionally it makes a weird sound out of nowhere. If you like the genre, I'd still say it's worth it, but be warned there are a few hitches.
Final Score: 6.7 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.