For a game based around multiplayer hack-and-dash action, Moon Diver has borrowed a surprising amount from shoot 'em ups.
Placing an emphasis on attack evasion and level memorization, replay value largely comes from the game's combo system, which encourages you to blitz your way through an entire stage without breaking your epic kill streak. It's hardly inventive, but striving to beat your previous combo score gets addictive - encouraging you to focus on constant pace rather than careful progression. Providing you with a basic set of skills and putting your reflexes to the test, the first few levels of Moon Diver are lighting-fast fun.
Sadly, things quickly lose momentum. After establishing speed as its main strength, Moon Diver slows things right down to a crawl. Enemies are too tough to kill quickly, so combos are almost impossible. Magic spells trigger mini-cutscenes that linger too long and can't be skipped. Devious platforming sections invite themselves to the party then blindly refuse to leave.
Once the difficulty ramps up, the cracks begin to show: instead of offering new skills to master, you're stuck with a clumsily wedged-in levelling up system. The only way to improve your odds is by pumping up your stats, a design choice that encourages quantity of play over quality. Four player co-op makes XP grinding less of a necessity, but oddly doesn't improve the experience. Hop into a game full of players using the same character, and Moon Diver doesn't even have the decency to mix the colour scheme up - placing four identical characters onto the same mashed-up canvas of blades and explosions.
Magic becomes essential in the later stages of the game, and with four people spamming spells at once it begins to feel lot like you're trapped in a Final Fantasy summon sequence. As with the game's intangible and sparse attempts at plot, it's a flavour of traditional Japanonsense that the game could have done without. After initially flashing the lacy knickers of potential, it's incredibly frustrating to see Moon Diver continually bombard itself with destructive design decisions.
Stylistically bland and clearly confused, the game's initially slick descent quickly twists into a belly flop. Floundering in a mush in ill-advised ideas, Moon Diver drowns itself in a paddling pool of tedium.
You can purchase Moon Diver from Xbox Live or on the web via the Xbox.com Marketplace. But really, we wouldn't recommend it.
- Fast and responsive fighting controls
- Very little depth
- Grinding is a chore
- Poorly thought-out multiplayer
- Soulless presentation style