Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider
Publisher: The Arcade Crew
Genre(s): Action, Platformer, Arcade, Indie
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on Steam and PlayStation)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 12/01/2023
A code was provided for review purposes
Keeping the Peace
Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is an action-platforming title that follows a sentient robot that tries to restore peace to civilization. Was this eight stage campaign worth my time? Find out in this Rapid Review.
When I started the game for the first time, the game explained some of the details regarding how I got released and my initial intentions. The world-building was relatively interesting. In between major sections, there were brief cutscenes that detailed what was going on. However, it was not a major draw. Still, it was nice to see while playing through the game. Additionally, many of the bosses have dialogue before the fight. This gave them a bit of personality. While it was interesting to see how the characters interacted with my character, it did not largely impact my playthrough. The story in Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider justifies my character’s intentions but does not do much apart from that.
Even the theming was not particularly exciting. Each location is scattered across an overworld hub, and I could head to pretty much any of the locations whenever I wanted. This meant I could fight almost any boss first, and the stage designs were prepared for that. I liked this decision. It helped keep the difficulty level consistent. However, despite having a clear divide between each level, the stages did not feel overly unique. Each had segments that stood out mechanically, yet the game blends into one theme. The game did not impress me with storytelling or world-building.
Arriving on the Scene
Alternatively, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider did impress me with the gameplay. I did not grow up alongside the “golden age of classic 16-bit action games”, and thus while I have played many retro-inspired titles, I do not know the true vision of the developer. Instead, what I do know is that the game is fun.
To start, the movement is fantastic. My character feels formidable, yet I can control him with ease. He has multiple different jump heights, various special moves, and most importantly, it is extremely easy to get accustomed to his movement speeds. In many games, I find the difference between the running speed and the walking speed jarring. Plus, the design rarely incentivizes the use of both. However, in Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, I constantly found myself alternating between the two options, and it made the game incredibly dynamic. Simply, the character felt good to use, whether I was attacking or just navigating the different areas.
To add to that, the locations themselves were fun to explore. While the themes and designs of the locations were not particularly distinct or memorable, I felt incredible blazing through these different places. Each location featured some sort of new mechanic. Whether it was a boss fight, a new asset, or even having me ride a motorcycle, I was constantly being introduced to new things. Moreover, the pacing of these stages was solid. There were always multiple boss fights to get through in each stage too. This kept me on my toes and prevented the levels themselves from stagnating. It felt good to have such clear segmentation between sections in levels. Plus, it made the checkpoint system feel more rewarding, as I typically got a checkpoint immediately after a boss fight.
The game as a whole was also fun because there were multiple difficulty options. However, unlike many titles, instead of having me select a difficulty before booting up the game, I unlocked augments to adjust my character as I was playing through it. One had me die in one hit, whereas another boosted my defence. It was clever, and I appreciated how the developer’s recommended option was clear.
Additionally, at the end of each stage, I was shown a rank based on how quickly I completed a level. While I constantly found myself getting low ranks on the first couple of attempts, it was also fun to repeat old levels and see tangible improvement in how quickly and effectively I could get through the stage. This added some additional motivation to replay levels, and I appreciated that too.
I was further incentivized to replay areas because I constantly unlocked new upgrades and augments for my character. While my initial slashing attack is likely more than enough to take me through the game, I uncovered different augments and special moves to keep me experimenting. It was fun, and I enjoyed the process. Combining the augments hidden through different stages with the new abilities granted by defeating bosses made rushing through old stages feel like a new experience. The constant influx of new content and strategies made both new and old stages fun.
Taking on Tech
The other reason Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is so engaging is that the enemies were fun to take out. They always have clearly defined patterns. Plus, each stage had a variety of novel enemy types. I specifically liked how easy they were to get through. While some enemies are in challenging spots, each of the enemies is manageable. This was crucial because the difficulty largely stems from taking on the boss fights. Thus, I would happily rush through the platforming section of the level to further enjoy myself in the boss fights. It was a great system.
It was further enhanced because the boss designs were both interesting and novel. The patterns were clear, the designs were neat, but most importantly, each was distinct. This meant more than just having different attacks. Some of them were mounted on a wall, others were entirely mobile, and others found themselves somewhere in the middle. Each boss felt distinct, and thus I was always proud when I took one out.
What’s the Ruckus
The sound design also did a lot to enhance my experience. It was adequately retro and had plenty of fast-paced and high-energy tracks to keep me moving through the levels. I think the sounds mirrored how I felt while playing through the levels well. The sound effects were similarly enjoyable, and I enjoyed hearing my blade slash through opposing forces.
Moreover, the visuals were incredibly effective. I could always tell what was occurring on my screen. The enemies and their attacks popped out from the background and the main character was always at the forefront of my view. Overall, the supplemental attributes worked wonderfully.
Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is a fun game. It does not revolutionize the action-platformer genre, but the experience is polished, action-packed, and enjoyable. The charming art style and sound design only add to the already great core gameplay loop. It is a bit brief, only taking me around three hours to complete, but I had a great time tackling it, and I can easily recommend it.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can purchase Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider on the Nintendo eShop here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.