Known for its accomplished retro-inspired titles, JoyMasher is back with something that will please classic side-scrolling action game fans.
Set in a future where an authoritarian rule wants to further its grip on humanity, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider presents a glimmer of hope. One of numerous super soldiers assembled to fulfil their creator’s will, the titular Moonrider has somehow broke his programming. Now, he’s going to do all he can to fight for the future of humankind, including taking down any super soldiers that stand in his way.
Inspired by games such as Shinobi and Strider, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider demands players to keep their wits about them as they run and slash their way through a sequence of stages. Melee combat forms the brunt of the excitement here, as well as precise platforming made all the more troublesome by a myriad of traps and other hazards.
There’s also a touch of Mega Man thrown in for good measure, too. You see, after completing the first stage, you’re then given free reign to tackle the majority of Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider‘s stages in any order that you wish. On top of that, by defeating the super soldiers that lie in wait at the end of them, you can access their unique special attacks that prove useful to the rest of your adventure.
Ultimately, then, as well as being able to slash at enemies with your powerful blades and fly-kick them with impressive force, you can also make use of a powerful lance, flame boomerangs, and a whole lot more. The only catch is that to use these advanced attacks you need MP, and it’s pretty limited. The trick is, then, to identify in which situation a special ability is particularly useful and then use it effectively.
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With nine stages overall, each one featuring at least one boss battle, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider will take most players around a couple of hours to complete. And while some will be disappointed that there are no difficulty levels to choose from, a performance-measuring grade system should keep the hardcore returning to master each and every stage.
For further replayability, there’s an upgrade chip system to get involved with, too. A number of upgrade chips are hidden within stages, waiting for keen-eyed players to find them. They offer new abilities such as double jump, as well as perks such as doing more damage as you defeat enemies. Only two of these chips can be equipped at any one time, however, forcing you to think about your loadout.
One of these chips also offers a crutch to players who find the action a little too challenging. A defence-boosting chip is offered to those who fall in battle, and equipping it should trivialise the game for most players, especially in conjunction with the generous lives system and checkpointing. The only caveat is that it caps the obtainable grade at B while using it, so those keen on mastering the game and getting all of its achievements or trophies will have to drop it at some point.
Presentation-wise, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider suitably looks and sounds like a blast from the past. Still, there’s some impressive animation on offer, and a pleasing range of environments. It’s perhaps the soundtrack that’s the most exciting though. While infused with modern influences, it has a retro vibe that never fails to draw you into the action.
There’s nothing mind-blowing about Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider. And it perhaps doesn’t quite feel as tight or rewarding to play as JoyMasher’s previous game, the fantastic Blazing Chrome. But it’s a solid take on the classic action platformer, and is bound to entertain those who were around during the genre’s heyday, as well as newcomers keen on some challenging action.