Before we start, we'd just like to make it clear that we are entirely in support of independent game making. It's often in independent games that we find new and exciting ideas, or just plain fun gameplay, even if they don't have the most polished presentation or the largest development team. It's hard breaking into the world of videogame development, but independent games are one way to do it, and with hard work and original ideas, talented people can create truly special games. Now that that's out of the way, Moonfall: Land of Dreams is terrible. We could look past the dreadful, uninspired graphics if there was something more than dreadful, uninspired gameplay behind them. But there isn't. We understand the limitations of a development team of only five people (one of whom was apparently responsible for catering). But charging for a game like this... Moonfall gives a bad name to independent games.
Moonfall is intended as an episodic game, with Land of Dreams being the first episode (and End of Dreams set for the future). However, the plot isn't really interesting enough to be worthy of episodic content. You play as a farmer from Moonfall, a land where its inhabitants' dreams shape the world, and apparently all they dream about are giant mushrooms. But oh no, here comes Malus, an evil dark creature thing who is twisting Moonfall's dreams into nightmares. The more twisted they become, the closer he gets to ruling the land. For reasons unexplained and most likely uninteresting, your character has not been affected by the nightmares, so it's up to you to pick up a mace and go bash in some badgers' heads. Really. Along the way, you're given guidence by a fairy, but there's no real characterisation going on here, of anyone.
So what this basically boils down to is a 2D side-scrolling platformer with 3D graphics. Oh sure, there's a twinge of nostalgia factor here, as the game kind of resembles Klonoa in concept, and there's touches of Mario, like how you can walk on clouds and climb beanstalks. It reminds us of those home-developed games that used to come free with MacFormat demo CDs back in the day of the original iMac. But getting back to the here and now, the gameplay is for lack of a better word (and you'll have to forgive us from this point on, as we'd like to indulge ourselves in articulate criticism) shoddy. Just walking around, your character is slightly faster than a disabled snail, who'd traded in his foot for a wheelchair and then found out the wheelchair's treads had gum on them and wouldn't turn properly. So naturally you hold that run button down and never let go. Your character can jump, although it's always at a 45 degree angle with no slope. He just sort of propels himself about five metres into the air, as if guided by an invisible jetpack, then falls sharply. To put it lightly, the control is stiff. To put it bluntly, it's awful.
The level design isn't any better, either. For one, there's far too many long falls or sections involving lots of jumps. The controls are far too stiff to make platform jumping feel fluid or fun, and when you fall you have about a 50/50 chance of dying or falling for twenty seconds and landing on a platform near the exit of the level. There are keys and stars to collect in the level, but you're never quite sure why you're doing it. We encountered several instances when we collected a star, died, then when we respawned the same star had appeared again but our star counter hadn't reset. Easy to collect stars, then. And at least the game has the decency to include checkpoints. However, the game is also plagued by a variety of weird glitches. For instance, we frequently had problems with the game on several computers resetting our screen's resolution, and leaving it that way until we restarted.
We'd have to be pretty cold-hearted to knock the game on its presentation seeing as it is an independent game, but all we really have to say is just look at it. There's no real originality in the design here, although there are some bizarre things in the game, such as the enemies - mushrooms with feet, badgers with huge bottoms, bats with one large eye. The environments can also be quite bizarre, for the wrong reasons. Some outdoors environments have wildly incongruent colour schemes, while indoors environments are composed of one muddy texture. The animation is pretty poor as well. Your character's head never moves, no matter what he's doing. It's like the centre point that the world around him revolves, which means that he's got one huge ego problem. The menu is bare bones, and, wait for it, there is no save system. Instead, there is a password system - but it doesn't use letters - it uses Lucky Charms shapes, which are just that extra bit more frustrating to jot down than letters. There are also eleven levels in the game, but you'll be tired of it by the second.
If this was a student's project in university, or a group work, that they'd been working on all year and had put up on the net to share, we'd be fine with this game. In that context, we'd even be proud of him or her. That's all a game like this should be. The problem here is that you're being charged USD $15 to download just the first episode of this game, Land of Dreams. There's no reason anybody should ever have to pay for this game. We won't waste any more time ganging up on this poor little game, after all, like we said, we love indie titles. But not this one. This game shows no creativity, no soul and no incentive to play it for more than a minute. We'd go so far as to call it 'a game', but that's about as far as we'd go. Hopefully, in a few years time, the developers will have produced something that's a little more original and fun to play, and maybe then we'll look back at Moonfall and learn where they started. Right now, though? No reason to play this at all.