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Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Playism
Developer: Bombservice
Release Date: March 16, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - 'Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight'

by Brian Dumlao on May 4, 2017 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is a retro inspired side-scrolling platformer that lets you explore a cursed land.

Buy Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight

You might not be aware that Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight is actually the fourth game in a series that started in 2010. The first two games were released for free at that time, and the third entry made it to Steam three years ago. There's certainly a big enough fan base on the PC to keep the series going, as evidenced by the fact that those previous games were crowdfunded, but now, console players will get a chance to see what the fuss is about.

Despite being the fourth entry, the game fits quite well as the debut title on consoles, since it's the prequel to the first game and is set 400 years before that title. You play the role of Kaho, a priestess who has travelled to Karst City to get help with the curse affecting her village. While she intends to seek an audience with the Queen, she discovers that the Queen may have been responsible for the curse that's plaguing the land, spreading death and turning almost everyone into monsters. Tasked with finding the pieces of the crest that will open the way to the castle, her new goal is to defeat the Queen and find a way to stop the plague herself.

If you're looking for a deep narrative, then you'll be disappointed. What you're getting adheres to the classic way of video game storytelling, where only the necessary plot points are told to you and the main characters without burdening you with character development or backstory. The focus is more on action than anything else, so that's something to be aware of with this title.

That action-based core gameplay behaves similarly to any other title using the Metroidvania blueprint. Though the game is linear, you will traverse a decently sized map to unlock the abilities you need to open doors, increase your health, find more pieces of the crest, and purchase items from shops to either replenish your health or make some parts of the world easier to deal with, whether that's lighting up your path or making secrets more obvious. Boss fights are plentiful, and enemies constantly respawn once you transition between screens. Scattered throughout the world are bells that act as both save points and replenishment spots for your health and items, eventually transforming into warp spots as you progress in the game.

Unlike most titles using this formula, Momodora focuses less on the puzzle aspect and more on platforming and combat. For platforming, you start off with a double-jump and a roll to get past foes, but you'll find abilities like an air dash and the chance to change your size so you can cross spiked chasms and reach another floor. For combat, you really evolve much beyond the leaf that's as strong and swift as a sword, which you can use to inflict combos against enemies. You also have a bow that's much weaker but fires shots much faster, and charging it up for a time gives you the chance to shoot three arrows at a time in a small spread pattern. That doesn't mean that puzzles are completely absent, but hitting switches doesn't require too much thought.

Though the main campaign can be finished in about six hours, what stands out in the minds of fans is the actual flow of combat. With the exception of the first batch you meet early on, almost all of the regular enemies tend to be tricky to fight, since you have to learn their patterns to dodge their attacks and ensure they don't get free hits on you. Combining both melee and arrow attacks is key, as is performing dodge rolls to catch enemies off-guard. Fighting regular minions is fun, and it's even more interesting to battle bosses, who you'll encounter quite often.

At the same time, one of the title's other hallmarks might be a deal-breaker for some: the level of difficulty. No matter which difficulty level you choose, the amount of hits needed to kill an enemy doesn't change, and while playing on easy means you have all of your health power-ups and the invincibility flash from getting hit has been extended, your health isn't reduced from playing on normal difficulty or higher. However, the amount of damage taken from hits is what really changes. Playing on normal difficulty means you'll be lucky to survive a few hits before dying, and going any higher means you'll have to be really good at the game since you'll die in one or two hits. Easy is manageable enough, but unless you care about getting a challenge, it'll be your only option if you want to play the game frustration-free.

The sound is actually quite subdued. An orchestral soundtrack complements the game setting very well, but it plays at a low volume almost all of the time and, in a number of places, the score simply doesn't exist. That lack of consistency tends to ruin the vibe just enough to get you out of the game. That's really the only fault to be found in the audio, as the sound effects are fine and voices don't exist at all, which neither enhances nor detracts from the experience.

On the other hand, the graphics are presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio and really embrace the new pixel look with a dash of retro stylings. The animations are absolutely smooth due to the high pixel count. Despite the dreary tone of the game, the character designs offset that by being adorable. There's also an option to choose pixel definition and shadowing, a curious addition from the PC space that is odd to see on the console — but a welcome addition. The only flaw in this area is the lack of definition between the background and other dangerous elements. There are times when the colors of some background elements and enemies like the ghost dog are so similar that you'll accidentally run into it without noticing it. The same goes for the spikes, which can sometimes be small enough to ignore until you die from contact with them.

Although it's short, Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight is solid. It hits the beats of a standard Metroidvania game perfectly, and while it doesn't add anything groundbreaking or new to the genre, it gives the player a great combat system to work with. Except for the lack of music in spots and some enemy blending due to the color palette, the presentation is solid, especially for fans of pixels. The level of difficulty on display can be hit-and-miss depending on your expectations, but otherwise, fans of side-scrolling adventure games will want to check out Momodora.

Score: 8.0/10

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