Moonlights Review

There’s no shortage of puzzle games out there on the App Store. That’s obvious. Whether it’s number puzzles or match-3 games, it’s generally a bunch of has-runs, unambitious in their concept or execution.

It’s the perfect environment for an indie developer to swoop in and try to mix things up. Rookie developer Jean-Phillipe Sarda did just that with Moonlights, a construction puzzle game that makes excellent use of the iPhone’s control options for a surprisingly interactive experience.

Hope you paid attention in physics class…

At first glance, the Moonlights may draw comparisons to Tiki Towers thanks to its erector set-type construction theme. But it’s so much more than that, despite its stripped down facade.

The general premise involves building structures, placing and connecting points via touch screen. The goal of each level involves keeping a point, called a “node,” inside the moon for 3 seconds, or using the structure to collect stars scattered throughout the board.

Obviously, it can’t be that easy. Everything you build is affected by actual physics, so the basic principles of constructing a load-bearing structure apply. Gravity can be a bitch like that.

And talk about curveballs! This game brings them in droves. The accelerometer is active, meaning you can lean or slide your structure left and right to accomplish your goal. This can get a little more physical than expected–don’t be surprised to find yourself sideways trying to lean your way to the finish.

Sometimes the floor is sticky, which will keep your structure from sliding. Sometimes the floor or floating satellites are volcanic, meaning they will destroy any node that they touch. There are variables that affect gravity, such as clouds or bubbles, which add another layer of depth. Some levels even require you to use, destroy, and then re-use a limited number of nodes to get the job done.

The list goes on and on, and there really is no shortage of features that affect your strategy for each level. The variety really tests the different faculties of the various puzzle genres, ranging from speed to patience to just sheer creativity.

Alas, you can’t lean far enough in this one.

Having so many things in play can be a bit distracting, schizophrenic even, but Moonlights stays true to its core gameplay thanks to disciplined use of its tricks. You’ll never feel overwhelmed with too much going on.

The game is lacking in features at the moment. There is simply the puzzle, which is about as basic as it gets. There are 40 levels total, each of increasing difficulty. Things can get pretty hard starting in the mid-20s, and having a lack of features outside the puzzle will no doubt frustrate players at those roadblocks, maybe even enough to walk away from the game altogether.

But the game itself promises additional features in its “About” page. Sarda hints at the addition of online scores and user-generated levels (though the level editor is not live at the moment). If he can deliver while the game is still fresh, Moonlights most definitely has the potential to become one of the classic iPhone puzzle games.

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