We rented out In The Shadow Of The Moon recently, the big-screen documentary that tells the story of moon landings by talking to the men who took part. Directed by Ron Howard, who also did the brilliant Apollo 13, it took us about two weeks to watch.Beautifully shot, lots of arty pans of the moon, interesting points of view - but try as we did we couldn't help nodding off. It's much the same situation with Moon. It's a technically sound first person shooter with some slick gameplay, but there's no spark to fire the imagination.
There's little left to guess with a name like Moon. As Major Kane you are called upon to investigate a strange discovery on the lunar surface. It turns out to be a hatch opening into a massive alien commune under the moon's surface. As you delve deeper, an initial sense of eeriness gives way to tedious familiarity. The same machinery seems to pop up in every area, just arranged differently. It's the first sign of the game's lack of flair.
It's a shame because the technical side of Moon is nearly flawless. The Metroid Prime Hunters control scheme is used: the L bumper fires, the D-pad controls movement and you aim and look using the stylus on the touch screen. Even where the story is flat and predictable, as it mostly is, the action never stutters due to dodgy controls.
As you progress deeper into the alien stronghold the challenge posed by the robotic guards you face is increased not by changes in tactics but by sheer weight of numbers. None of them are particularly crafty, though it's a satisfying thing seeing them blasted into nuts and bolts, so variety is ground down under waves of samey enemies. Even level bosses require similar tactics to dispatch them when they should be adding spice.
Some of the best moments of the game occur on the moon's surface where you use remote-controlled vehicles to collect items in cramped tunnels. Sections where you have to do bendy bad dad-dancing to get through laser fields is good fun too, really showing off the neat, graceful controls.
Moon's really cool bits are few and far between and the quality of the game's foundations only highlights the lack of creativity in the finished product. It's like plonking the body of a Volkswagen Jetta on the chassis of a Bugatti Veyron. We can't think of a single question in the world to which "Moon on DS" would be the answer, other than "Name a thoroughly mediocre lunar-themed shooter".