The Game Tutor grades Moonlighter

The game sees you take the role of a young merchant names Will who's taking over the family business of running the shop Moonlighter in the town of Rynoka a town built on the edge of a site holding mysterious dungeons. Will is determined to enter these dungeons and gain keys to finally enter the mysterious fifth gate.

Inside these dungeons the layout changes every time and adventures go in to find treasure and thus begins your adventure in moonlighter . Funnily for a game with semi randomised layouts this has to be the first time that I can recall where it is actively explained eventually in the lore of the game

period new line new line the game is split into two very distinct halves firstly is the roguelite trips into the dungeons themselves to kill enemies and gain loot. The other half of the game is when you return from those dungeons with your loot in tow and challenges you with the task of selling your wares.

The roguelite portion of the game plays well. Playing similar to a top down legend of Zelda game with the basic layout style of Binding of Isaac sees player fight through ever increasing dungeons in search of loot. While the enemies get tougher each dungeon as does your gear and provided you level with the dungeons nothing should propose too much of an issue.
There are a number of different weapons to use such as swords, spears, bows and gauntlets and each have their pros and cons. Each weapon can also have an extra effect such as stunning, inflicting poison, fire or electricity.

Gameplay is fast and responsive with a very kind evade roll that seems to let you dodge almost anything if times correctly. The weapons have a real sense of weight behind them and I found playing through the dungeons fun and the right level of difficulty. There is no levelling as such just better gear and weapons which can in turn be bought and made from money and drops from each dungeon.

As you pick up items to take back to town you run into another interesting mechanic and that is managing your inventory space. Never in a game have I seen such an engaging way to force players to manage their inventory. Items only stack in 5s or 10s but some items come with a curse. This may be that your item can only be placed at the top or bottom of your bag or that the artefact to the left will be destroyed when you head back to town. There are also positive curses that can be used to counteract this such as cure another curse or duplicating the item with another item. This is a fun distraction that means you must really think about strategy every chest you encounter as to what to pick up for selling and what to discard for a fraction of their worth.

When you head back to town you must the open Moonlighter and sell the wares of the day. You must set the prices by gauging customer reactions to find out how much something is worth and manage your stock. You literally have to get behind the counter and manually ring a sale up every time all the while restocking shelves and dealing with thieves. This is an interesting mechanic that I enjoyed but once you have worked out the prices of each item it becomes a little formulaic, but I always found myself having fun.

Visually the game is great with some beautiful pixel style artwork. On the pre-release Switch version I played was full of bugs. There were some noticeable slowdowns in places, I crashed a few times, stacks of hidden items cannot be split properly and I achieved an awful graphical glitch in the final area of the game. Many of these issues have been patched on the PC version of the game but we are still waiting to see if it happens on Switch. They aren’t game breaking but they are slightly too frequent and annoying to not warrant a mention.

Story is light and sadly the town of Rynoka feels a little empty apart from the things you need to visit. I would have liked it if customers had names and personalities. A little bit of inspiration from Stardew Valley could have gone a long way here.

Equally without revealing too much while the climax of the game and the opening of the fifth gate does explain the story I was left a little underwhelmed and disappointed and was desperately craving more that a new game plus was not going to meet (but surely that’s a good sign).

Overall I had a fantastic time playing Moonlighter and can whole-hardheartedly recommend it. A few small issues aside it is a great unique spin on a tried and tested formula that is definitely worth you investment.