Developer(s) – Bombservice
Publisher(s) – Playism
Developed by Brazilian indie outlet Bombservice Games and released on multiple platforms since 2016, Reverie Under the Moonlight is the fourth title in the relatively obscure Momodora series of Metroidvanias. Since the release of the third and fourth titles on Steam, the series began to gain much more momentum after being confined to the itch.io platform and it’s not hard to see why. I was taken aback by just how good this game is and it has made me want to try out the rest of the series; out of all the Metroidvania games I’ve played, this is one like no other.
Graphics – 9/10
Making use of traditional 8-BIT graphics and inspired by the medium of Japanese anime, the game’s conceptual design is without a doubt it’s most wonderful and unique feature. It plays host to a number of unusual creatures scattered across the in-game world and takes place over a contrast of beautiful and horrifying locations, but it’s the latter that takes precedent. The amount of wonderfully dark and atmospheric locations in this game certainly makes it one of the grittiest Metroidvania games I’ve ever played; most definitely the scariest. Even scarier than any game in the Castlevania series by some distance. The game’s accompanying soundtrack also adds to the already wonderfully grim atmosphere of this title. Unlike most 8-BIT games, it makes no use of chiptune and relies heavily on traditional orchestral music and the extremely effective use of realistic background sound effects such as running water.
Gameplay – 8/10
The game plays out like a standard Metroidvania experience, with players having to discover new abilities to access different areas throughout and uncover hidden secrets to enhance the strength of the player character Kaho. It’s also quite heavily combat-orientated through combat options are slightly more limited compared to other games in the genre. The difficulty of the boss fights also ranges from easy to hard throughout, but the basic structure of each boss fight is very well handled, and again, some make for very memorable moments within the entire genre. There are also two different endings to unlock depending on the actions of the player, similar to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It starts out as fairly challenging, but as the player gains new abilities, the difficulty decreases considerably; but better for it to play out like that than having it be too inaccessible. It’s an enjoyable gaming experience with a lot to uncover throughout.
Controls – 10/10
Especially as the developers had had extensive experience in developing for this series before the fourth installment, there are no issues with the controls whatsoever. There’s not a great deal you could call unique about the game’s control scheme since it plays out typical of a Metroidvania game, but again, better to do that than take unnecessary risks. The shape-shifting mechanic was quite enjoyable for me, as Kaho gains the ability to turn into a cat in order to reach narrow passageways; I love cats, so it worked for me on a personal level.
Lifespan – 4/10
The aspect which didn’t work so well for me, however, was how short the game lasts. To complete it, even to 100%, can be done within 4 hours, and for a Metroidvania game, that’s criminally short. Although the developers would have inevitably been operating on a budget whilst making this game, I’ve played and reviewed longer Metroidvanias made by other indie developers with them having been their first title, and with graphics comparable to this on the technical level. A game as wonderfully unique as this one deserved to last considerably longer in my opinion.
Storyline – 8/10
The story of the game involves a young priestess named Kaho hailing from the village of Lun, who has come to Karst City seeking out its a queen in order to request protection for her home village, But things take a dark turn for the worst as Kaho ventures across the world to discover what has happened to Karst City and it’s queen. Throughout the game, players will come across a number of tortured characters with much depth to them, which is another reason why this game deserved to last longer; if it did, there would’ve been far more time to further develop on these individual characters and elaborate on their stories and fates; even the boss characters have layers to them, which could’ve been explored more. Although the game’s end boss is obviously the last trial the player must undertake, to me, the last boss isn’t even the most compelling villain; by far, that honor would go to Lubella, the witch of decay. The concept art for the game doesn’t really do her character justice, as she’s portrayed as being a size proportionate to every other character. But in the game, she’s a giant with a lot of power, which makes her much more menacing; she most definitely steals the show as the game’s best villain.
Originality – 9/10
As I said before, the game’s conceptual design makes this title much different from any other Metroidvania game I’ve played; even amongst the many other indie Metroidvanias, I’ve played such as the Ori games, the Alwa games, Dust: an Elysian Tail, and Cathedral. The series’ mythology has been expanded upon with the original trilogy before this, so this fourth title does make me want to explore the series in much more depth. But this is my first experience with this series, and I was taken aback by just how unique a game this was.
Overall, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is certainly worth at least one playthrough. I was disappointed with how short a time it lasts and I felt it could have easily been made to last far longer than what it does, but for the time it does last, it’s an enjoyable game with a wonderfully morbid atmosphere and a lot of emotionally charged moments that players will not soon forget.