Life was simpler when controllers had two buttons and game worlds came in just two dimensions. Action games like Contra and Ninja Gaiden laid out everything you needed right in front of you. You could even plant a clueless parent in front of a TV, hand them an NES controller, and before you knew it they’d be jumping over pits and shooting up aliens. Since then, controllers have fattened up, their buttons have multiplied, and confusing 3-D game worlds have taken root. Moral Decay tries to bring back the good old days by mimicking the side-scrolling action games of yore.
The game is about a single man– a composite of the Schwarzeneggers and Stallones of ‘˜80s pop culture– on a mission to stop a powerful gang from exploding the planet. Why they want to kill everyone isn’t important. All that matters is that you take them down, man by man. To do this, you make your way through the levels from left to right, hopping over pits and picking up weapons to blow the enemies to bloody, gummy pieces.
Nobody makes me bleed my own blood.
So far, this sounds like a great game. And with its authentic pixel grain and chiptune soundtrack, it appeals to the senses, too. In fact, the whole thing is superb until you start, you know, playing it.
Once you do that, it falls apart. Moral Decay is a glitchy mess, with frequent crashes, awful jumping mechanics, brutal difficulty, no checkpoints, and no pause button. It’s a universal app, but if you play it on an iPhone or iPod Touch the controls get in the way of the action. It’s significantly better on an iPad, where your thumbs don’t cover up the pits you’re about to fall into, but it crashes on all devices equally.
As broken as the game sounds, we actually had a hard time putting Moral Decay down. Because it’s so ridiculously hard, it took us at least an hour of repeated attempts (and about 20 game crashes) to get past the first stage. When we did, it felt like a major victory. But as soon as we died on the second stage (almost immediately), the game crashed, so we were back at square one, with our hopes trampled and our resilience snuffed out.
Moral Decay could be so good, and yet it’s broken in ways that make it impossible to recommend. Even still, we were able to have some fun with it. But until they fix the deal-breaking issues (and hopefully add checkpoints and multiple difficulty modes), we’d suggest that all but the most hardcore of old-school gamers hold off.