Check out our review of the 16-bit action throwback Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider…
Find out everything you need to know before you play, including details on gameplay, style, soundtrack and more. Will we be swayed by robo-samurai vibes? Watch on to find out.
For anyone who’s followed UDS for a while, you’ll know we were pretty quiet over Christmas, taking a much needed break. During the time away I discovered a bunch of old retro games I had packed away for years, and among all these I rekindled my love of old school action games. The likes of Ninja Gaiden and Shinobi are brutally difficult, but have fast-paced, fluid gameplay that holds up really well nearly 30 years later.
That’s why it was very cool and a little serendipitous that one of the first releases of 2023 happened to be a loving homage to this very genre of a bygone era.
Hey how’s it going guys! This is Tom from UDS and welcome to our review of Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, a brand new 16-bit side-scrolling hack-and-slasher from publishers JoyMasher. We’re going to tell you everything you need to know before you play, but before I do, don’t forget to hit subscribe for more on all things gaming every single week, or at least we’ll try to do it every week. Let’s see!
So Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider takes place in a quintessentially dystopic future setting. The authoritarian leadership have built an army of super soldiers to maintain their dominance, but all this changes when they bring you, Moonrider, online. Similar to the likes of Robocop, you’re programmed to uphold the power balance, but instead you reject your intended purpose, choosing to rage against the proverbial and sometimes literal machine to save the world. You also look like a sick samurai warrior, because in a game like this it’d be rude not to.
I’ll get more into the vibe and style in just a sec, but the most important thing with games like this is the gameplay, and I’m happy to report that it’s as laser sharp as a futuristic ninja’s katana. From the initial tutorial, you’re introduced to tight platforming that expertly tackles horizontal and vertical movement as well as any Metroid game or more recently the likes of Celeste and Dead Cells. Whether it’s running, wall jumping or climbing monkey bars, it’s super satisfying just zipping around like a ball of furious energy.
The only thing I will say is while sprinting he does look like a quarterback holding a football, but that’s more funny than anything.
And once you’re up and running, you’ll come up against a veritable smorgasbord of enemies to defeat. Fortunately, you have a range of different attacks to combat them all that grows as you progress through the stages. And boy, are you going to need them.
From guntotting soldiers, turrets, floating heads that fire lasers out of their mouths and even some ninja-looking chaps who seem to have the Smart Disc from Predator 2, you’ll constantly have to think about your strategy for every situation. The gameplay never gets stuck in a rut, throwing a new challenge up at every turn.
And on that note, yes this game is bloody hard – at least for a scrub like me. I enjoy games like this, but I’m absolutely awful at them, so found myself dying over and over again. But despite some moments which left me holding back naughty words through gritted teeth, it never felt truly unfair – there’s a logical solution to every challenge, whether it be patience, timing or some of those extra skills you pick up along the way. If you’re used to these sorts of games, the difficulty won’t shock you, but for anyone new to the genre, expect frustration, but also some of the most satisfying moments when it all comes together.
Now as I said, the visuals and aesthetics are more than a match for the gameplay. While reminiscent of its 16-bit predecessors, it offers a level of detail, depth and refinement that just wouldn’t have been possible back in the day. Beautifully apocalyptic, it felt like I was playing through a long lost John Carpenter film, and that’s a massive compliment in my books.
And speaking of similarities to Carpenter’s work, Moonrider is also augmented by a killer musical score. Playing those old games over Christmas reminded me how much those old soundtracks stuck in my head, and how much they added to the experience, even if I didn’t truly appreciate it at the time. But I definitely recognise it this time around, and will be searching out the tracks to add to my daily rotation.
2022 was a pretty quiet year for me and video games. Whether it was pandemic delays or just not many games that resonated me, something just didn’t click. But if Vengeful Guardian: Moonride is anything to go by, 2023 is going to be more like it. It might not be long (the 8 stages can be easily completed in a weekend), and it might not be revolutionary, but it offers a tight, bombastic dose of adrenaline that never outstays its welcome. If you’re looking for something to tide you over before the triple-A games of 2023 drop, look no further than this retro throwback.
But what did you think of Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider? Please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to read your thoughts. And don’t forget to subscribe for more video game content every single week, or you can always visit upsidedownshark.com to keep up with everything we’ve got going on.
Until then my name is Tom, we’ve been UDS, and we’ll see you next time.