Designer – Jaron Lanier
Publisher(s) – Creative Software
Rating – N/A
Moondust is not only an art game but it’s also one of the first examples of a music game, with music being rendered randomly by the Commodore 64 the further and further, the game progresses. Though the gameplay can be quite enjoyable once players get the hang of it, it does take a while to get into, and many other players may simply be left perplexed by how surreal and off-the-wall it is and was for the time.
Graphics – 7/10
Since video gaming technology was extremely limited at this point, compared to what it would become in the future, a lot of what games relied on at the time was a wide variety of different colors and as varying character sprites as could possibly be rendered. In this game, there’s certainly no shortage of color, as many of them are displayed across the screen at the same time. The music can get pretty irritable after a while of playing, but the visual aspect was captivating enough and seems less distracting the more players get used to the game’s general mechanics.
Gameplay – 7/10
The objective of the game is to guide the character across a bullseye at the center of the screen and land as much of the residue he generates behind him as possible into the bullseye, whilst trying to avoid four additional spaceships on the screen. I think I would best describe this game as Pac-Man in space since the objective is somewhat similar, and the amount of enemies is also identical; although I would make the assumption that the enemies don’t have the same level of artificial intelligence as the ghosts in Pac-Man.
Controls – 7/10
The controls can be pretty awkward to start off with, and it does take an unusual amount of time to adjust to them after playing so many other conventional games of the second generation myself. I imagine that it must also be especially difficult playing on a system akin to a home PC since I’ve always personally found directional buttons to be much more difficult to cope with than a D-pad or even an arcade stick. However, once players have gotten the hang of it, no other complications will arise.
Originality – 9/10
Although I have been able to vaguely compare Moondust with another successful second-generation title, the fact is that there were no other, and still very few other games like this. This game has also been inducted into video game museums and exhibitions, and to my knowledge, there aren’t many games of the era that can say something like that. It has gone on to be the basis of many different mainstream titles of even this day and age, and any game that can go on to influence that wide a variety of games must be considered unique.
In summation, Moondust may have its flaws, but there is no denying its historical importance. Without games like this surviving, especially during the Video Game Crash of 1983, story in video games would simply be considered to be an impossibility, and the industry would be significantly less close to establishing the medium as a valid art form.