The escort mission is likely one of the most reviled of videogame tropes, however solo-developed platformer Moons Of Darsalon (opens in new tab) boldly leans into it as its complete deal. Darsalon is a puzzle-platformer within the vein of Lemmings, tasking you with searching down hapless “Darsonauts” in its sprawling ranges, then shepherding them to security.
It is a idea that inherently stresses me out—having to maintain these little goobers alive—however fortunately they’ve some fairly sensible pathfinding, at all times being simply hapless sufficient to be a worthy navigational problem, however by no means fairly feeling like a millstone. Darsalon additionally shines by letting you set your individual tempo with problem. “Regular” mode could be what I often go for: one star out of 4, minimal Darsonauts rescued, and no optionally available aims. Do not let excellent be the enemy of the great.
A extra daring participant can hunt out stage secrets and techniques, make certain each final Darsonaut makes it out alive, and likewise adhere to these secondary aims I discussed. These secondary situations particularly actually strike me as a intelligent approach so as to add problem, non-lateral pondering on the a part of developer Dr. Kucho that dovetails properly with the sport’s personal puzzle-solving. There are fairly normal aims like beating the extent in a time restrict or taking no injury, however I actually dig the curve balls resembling forgoing the usage of the terrain producing gun in a stage the place it appears important, or in any other case tying your hand behind your again as you undergo your mission.
That is proper by the way in which, I stated “terrain producing gun.” Like Pizza Tower or one of the best Mario video games, Moons of Darsalon is brimming with concepts that might every be the core of their very own respective platformer. The usual laser gun can destroy terrain, punching new paths via the degrees, whereas that floor maker builds it again and might even assemble bridges throughout huge chasms. The jetpack enables you to soar via ranges and fight flying enemies, however you may’t take Darsonauts with you up there and have to seek out alternate paths for them. Later ranges maintain the promise of a six-wheeled APC and even a dropship to ferry your Darsonauts via the unfriendly skies.
Every stage presents as a discrete puzzle to unravel, and that coupled with the excessive pressure of caring for my Darsonauts leaves Moons of Darsalon an ideal sessionable sport by my reckoning: fast 10-20 minute play classes to beat a person stage. Fortunately, it runs nice on Steam Deck proper out of the field, even with no shiny inexperienced verified badge. It is a supreme lunch break sport, and I feel it significantly sings on the go.
I am additionally nonetheless enchanted by Darsalon’s presentation, particularly all of the Silicon Graphics-looking spritework evoking the heyday of early 3D rendering condensed right into a kind digestible by ’90s residence electronics. Darsalon has all this shiny, ray weapons and UFOs Forbidden Planet tech on mossy, mountainous backdrops that remind me of the matte portray backgrounds of basic sci-fi.
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It is also very whimsical and playful, along with your Darsonauts’ cheeky little speech bubbles and wiggly animations conferring an undue quantity of character. “I hope no one is watching…” My character intones after beefing it right into a wall along with his jetpack, whereas one time he introduced “I am not a foul participant, the problem curve is simply improper. I realized this from a random child on YouTube,” after a very undignified collection of deaths.
Moons of Darsalon is an actual delight, an ingenious, memorable platformer that is excellent in fast bursts of vexing puzzle-solving. It is presently on sale for $17 (down from a typical $20) on Steam (opens in new tab), and you can even check out its free demo earlier than totally committing to a visit to the Moons of Darsalon to rescue its goonishly lovable little inhabitants.