It wasn’t too long ago that I got my hands on a demo of Moo Lander. The action RPG game with added “Mootroidvania” elements certainly did not shy away from its theme. Infact, I’ve never heard milk referenced so often in one place before. Now the full release is finally here I had the opportunity for an in-depth dive into the dairy obsessed world.
The action takes place on a planet called Mars, but instead of being all hot and fiery this version is home to several lush biomes along with some less pleasant environments. You’re there on a very important mission, to locate a device which is capable of creating infinite amounts of milk. This makes more sense than you might think, because in Moo Lander milk is the most important resource going.
To get around, you navigate through the maze-like planet encountering numerous indigenous creatures on your journey. Unfortunately, most of these are hostile and will attack as soon as you hover close enough to them in your little ship. A mixture of vicious critters and deadly plants await you, each with their own distinctive attack and movement patterns.
They start off fairly straightforward to dispatch, and despite becoming a little more tricky never feel truly difficult to take down. Whether it’s the insect like dashers or speedily reproducing seeders, once you observe their attacks you’ll know exactly how to deal with them.
As you pick them off, you will collect their essence and when you hit a certain amount it will unlock a new camouflage pattern for your ship. These aren’t just for show though, each comes with its own unique advantage such as the ability to damage enemies simply by touch, and retaliate with a vine attack when damaged. You can freely switch between them once unlocked, choosing the most suitable ability for the situation you find yourself in.
You’ll also gain XP as you battle Mars’ inhabitants, and level up which unlocks new skills to be purchased. These are split into three types: lethal attacks, non-lethal attacks and defensive abilities. These all use up your milk reserves, and your remaining amount is displayed on screen alongside your health wheel. Luckily, there are plenty of places to top up both resources during your travels.
Lethal attacks, for example your milk machine gun and sword, are mostly used to see off enemies. However, you’ll regularly encounter mighty cows which play out similar to boss battles and randomly pop up throughout the game. As you’ll need to beam them up rather than kill the respected creatures, non-lethal attacks are necessary. For both types of encounter, your defensive skills equip you with a shield and even little drones which will help keep you from getting wiped out by enemy fire.
Both camouflage patterns and skills make up the RPG portion of Moo Lander. The rest is a mixture of action and adventure. The combat is pretty straightforward, but if I’m being honest rather repetitive and lacking in imagination to begin with. This is especially true of the cow battles, which are an absolute grind. The first half of them feel almost identical, before getting more challenging towards the business end of the game. Regardless of which encounter you’re in, you’re always reduced to button bashing your way to victory.
In terms of adventure, Moo Lander looks pretty with some lovely hand drawn backgrounds. However, it feels very linear. Even when you come across a fork in the road, you’ll not be taken far off the beaten track. Normally it’s just to use a switch to open the door ahead. There is some basic puzzling to be done, with new mechanics such as plants which spew seeds that are needed to cut certain vines, and others which fire lasers which need to be avoided.
Unfortunately, these are introduced incredibly slowly and the gameplay falls into a repetitive pattern that really lacks challenge. Also, rather oddly, there are no secrets to look for. In a game such as this, the environment would be perfect for them but instead there’s no excuse not to try and blast through it as quickly as possible.
There isn’t enough to prevent the single player campaign feeling like a formulaic and repetitive chore in parts. Nipping around and blasting aliens is fun up to a point, but you’ll be aching for a new element to be chucked into the mix. The playtime is billed as twelve+ hours, however I finished it in just over half that time. Granted, I was playing on one of the middle difficulties, however I don’t feel simply making Moo Lander harder will fix its problems.
Your ship controls pretty well, with both thumbsticks used to move and aim simultaneously, which is handy when things rarely get frantic. It does feel quite bulky in some spaces however, and try as I might I couldn’t go for more than a few seconds before crashing into a vine and taking damage. Thank goodness for all the health points scattered around.
The story in Moo Lander is told through flashback cutscenes and is easy to follow, if a little uneventful. There is also some cheeky dialogue between both the main characters, the pilot and his AI, Hamilton. I’m still not sold on Hamilton’s voice though, he just sounds like my Google Assistant. What I will say is that the music is somewhat enchanting, and really relaxing to listen to.
Moo Lander also features “Mooltiplayer”, both co-op and PvP. You can fight as both the cows and landers against one another, battle endless enemy waves or even have a match of “Galactic Mooball”. The latter is the most interesting of the lot, if only a brief distraction. Unfortunately, you can’t play with bots so you will need actual friends to enjoy two of the modes on offer. All in all, the issues here are consistent with the single player campaign and as a result the novelty of multiplayer will wear off pretty quickly. At £14.49, it doesn’t feel like the price tag is wholly warranted.
Moo Lander has a unique theme and a certain charm about it, but the thinly stretched ideas mean it doesn’t take too long for this one to turn a little sour.
Moo Lander can be downloaded from the Xbox Store