Moon

 

In theory, the first-person shooter Moon is about exploring alien facilities on Earth's satellite, but in practice, it's about exploring the limits of the Nintendo DS. The result is one of the most impressive uses of the system to date. The controls are highly intuitive, allowing you to smoothly navigate your character, Major Kane, through eerily glowing corridors while using the touch pad to aim your weapon of choice at attacking droids. The graphics are beautiful whether you're gawking at a giant robot trying to blast you, or at the starry lunar sky, complete with Earth on the horizon. Music adds to the atmosphere with computerized beeping, clicking, and static, often mixed with the noise of heavy machinery.

Unlike in some shooters, you have plenty of time to look around; Moon's enemies don't respawn, so you're free to search for hidden secrets at leisure, and to piece together parts of the disturbing plot in the form of log entries describing the purpose behind what you're seeing.

Moon relies more on puzzles than on suspense and survival; it requires players to test their timing while switching between Kane and a tiny robot in order to access new parts of each level. That makes for a varied play experience, and even if you die between saves, backtracking isn't hard.

The primary disappointment is the lack of unique enemies. A lot of the attackers look the same, and no matter how nasty a floating metal sphere is, it isn't particularly satisfying to fight. Still, they're fairly mean, with cunning AI that likes to stay out of range, shooting at you from behind corners and under places you can't reach. Boss fights also add some needed novelty, with opponents that require more skill and strafing to bring down.

Beyond the game: After beating each level, you can play it again on different difficulties.

Worth playing for: Using your little vulnerable droid to expose protected enemies, then blasting them away.

Frustration sets in when: That health item you so desperately need drops just out of reach.

Final judgment: The ease of play, clever design, and memorable plot make this a very successful lunar mission.