Review: Moonstone Island
Developer: Studio Supersoft
Publisher: Raw Fury
Available on: Steam, Nintendo Switch (TBD)
Moonstone Island, a relatively recent release, is a charming life-simulation adventure and combines the art of creature collecting, deck-building, and turn-based card combat, all set within an expansive, open world spanning many islands. You’ll embark on an enchanting journey and be introduced to many magical creatures, kindred spirits, and the quest to unravel the island's many mysteries.
At its heart, Moonstone Island is a creature-collecting life-simulation game set in a vast open world. Players will step into the shoes of an aspiring alchemist, sent off by their parents and destined to adventure for at least a year as part of their alchemical training. Guided by nature spirits, magical potions, and newfound companions, you'll explore all kinds of things like ancient temples, formidable dungeons, and different biomes while delving into the island's many secrets.
One of Moonstone Island's features that stood out to me is its combat system, which is entirely card-based. Players are tasked with forming teams of spirits, nurturing and enhancing their growth and abilities while strategically assembling their decks. Each spirit has a unique set of cards and special skills, which adds depth and complexity to the card-based encounters, which have become commonplace in many other games over the recent past.
With a diverse cast of spirits, each characterized by its distinct design and attributes, the process of collecting and nurturing these spirits becomes somewhat of a challenge to “catch them all.” While some spirits can be encountered in the overworld, others are obtained through hatching eggs, injecting anticipation and surprise into your spirit collection journey, which can sometimes become tedious when needing to grind in the same area. This made hatching new creatures one of my favorite aspects of this game element.
The heart of Moonstone Island's gameplay really lies in the exploration aspect. The game's world consists of 100 floating islands, all randomly arranged, creating an ever-changing landscape to navigate. The thrill of exploring these islands, dungeons, and various biomes is an integral part of the gaming experience. However, one must be careful when first venturing into the unknown, as a wrong turn into the void with your broom could lead to you falling from the sky once you run out of stamina, as was one of my first mistakes.
While exploration offers ample opportunities for combat and resource collection, it also contributes to the game's narrative. The inclusion of a central questline and various side quests adds depth to the world of Moonstone Island and enriches the storyline. I’d like to note that while the game's storytelling is generally enjoyable, there isn’t much of a huge finale within the storyline for those preferring such things when choosing a game to play.
The NPCs populating Moonstone Island are another highlight worth mentioning. The diverse range of characters showcases varied personalities and backgrounds, making the island feel alive with unique individuals most people will be able to relate to. Engaging with these characters, building relationships, and uncovering their individual stories helps immerse players even further. You’re also provided with a rich array of romantic possibilities, making the game feel more inclusive.
While Moonstone Island's primary focus is on creature collecting and exploration, it also incorporates classic farming and life-simulation elements. These aspects allow players to build upon their alchemical journey by adding farming, mining, fishing, and house decorating to their activities. Farming, while not the central theme, plays an essential role in managing stamina and enhancing the stats of your spirits.
The fishing mini-game introduces an element of challenge and dexterity, although some players may find it a bit tricky, especially those with motor skill difficulties. You’re tasked with a small circle used to hover over an erratic fish until it’s been caught. However, it adds depth to the game and provides a sense of accomplishment when mastering the fishing mechanics.
Moonstone Island's visual style is an artful blend of pixel art and vibrant, enchanting aesthetics. The pixel art is reminiscent of classic gaming while showcasing a unique and modern twist that feels fresh. The vivid colors, meticulous detailing, and character designs contribute to the overall charm of the game.
The atmosphere of Moonstone Island is captivating, with the world's design reflecting its enchanting nature. Each island is characterized by distinct biomes, from lush forests and crystal caves to ice-covered landscapes. The soundtrack further enhances the atmospheric quality of the game. It provides a harmonious and immersive experience, whether you're engaged in combat, exploring the islands, or simply enjoying a relaxing moment on your farm.
One of the strengths of Moonstone Island lies in its seamless integration of various gameplay elements into an engaging and holistic experience. While the primary focus is on creature collecting and exploration, the different aspects of the game—combat, farming, and life simulation—harmoniously work together. Each activity contributes to overall progression, ensuring that players always have meaningful and enjoyable activities to pursue.
The game strikes a delicate balance between allowing players the freedom to follow their desired paths and offering guidance to prevent feeling overwhelmed. The gradual introduction of game mechanics ensures players can easily understand and adapt to the game's unique systems. There's also a useful in-game journal that provides all sorts of useful information and guidance to assist you along the way.
I could also play flawlessly on the Steam Deck, never encountering any major or game-breaking glitches. With the few minor glitches and visual issues, I found there to already be updates in progress working to resolve them.
In conclusion, Moonstone Island is a world to get lost in, an enchanting adventure that offers a perfect blend of diverse gameplay elements. If you're seeking a charming and immersive world to explore, Moonstone Island is a journey you won't want to miss. So, embark on this enchanting adventure and uncover the mysteries of Moonstone Island for yourself.
Much gratitude to Raw Fury for providing the code to embark on this enjoyable journey. I can’t wait to see what comes next for my island exploration and creature collecting in further updates.