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Lunar Lander Beyond: Navigating the Stars is Stressful

Platform reviewed: Steam

Also on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S

Price: $29.99

As a sci-fi enthusiast, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review Lunar Lander Beyond. I first played the game at PAX West last year, where, despite its challenging nature—particularly in terms of ship maneuverability—I was eager to experience the game in its entirety. While there's much to admire about Lunar Landing Beyond, the ship's handling remains problematic, potentially deterring some players.

Let's start by discussing what I find most enjoyable about Lunar Lander Beyond. The game has a charming and nostalgic feel reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon from the 80s. The opening sequence, in particular, is a delightful homage to the animated shows of that era. Given that the original game was released in 1979, this choice is a good fit. 

The characters in Lunar Lander Beyond are playful yet have a slightly edgy vibe, reminiscent of early cartoons but with a more mature twist. Some of the humor may be subtle and geared towards an older audience, with hints of sarcasm and even references to adult themes like drug use. One minor drawback of the game is that the animated intro is not skippable until about forty-five seconds in. While it's entertaining to watch initially, it can become repetitive after multiple playthroughs. By the third time, I found myself eager to bypass the intro and dive straight into the gameplay.

Set in a futuristic landscape, the game casts me as the captain of a spacecraft, operating under a corporation specializing in lucrative cargo and rescue operations. The game unfolds across several unique worlds, each offering a diverse array of missions to undertake. From daring rescue operations that involve skillful landings to retrieve crew members—who may later become part of my crew—to intense defense missions aimed at protecting areas from debris damage. Success in these missions is rewarded with medals, granting me better medals the quicker I complete the tasks.

In each level of Lunar Lander Beyond, there are various items such as currency, health, energy, and pills. What sets this game apart is the unique feature of pilot stress. As stress levels increase, pilots may start to experience delusions, causing strange things to appear on the screen for me. If stress levels become too high, the entire level may appear blurry and distorted.To reduce a pilot's stress levels, I have the option to search for pills floating in space or to provide healing back at the base. Using currency, I can purchase psychotherapy for the pilot. If there is not enough currency, the pilot can be sent to counseling, but this means they will be unavailable for several missions. This mechanic adds a sense of risk similar to perma-death, but without permanently losing the pilot.

Stress escalates whenever my pilot sustains damage to the ship in the game. Securing health and energy becomes crucial for survival. However, my primary complaint arises from the game's challenging navigation. Frequently, I found myself overshooting targets, be it a passage or an energy/fuel source, and attempting to circle back consumed additional fuel. Colliding with walls became a common occurrence, further heightening my (and the pilot’s) stress levels. Although the game offers a stabilizer, functioning similarly to a handbrake, its use also depletes energy. During one mission, I was granted a shield to equip, but activating it had the same energy-draining effect. To navigate through narrow spaces, I had to slow down, which, in turn, affected my medal ranking negatively. Certain levels required speedy completion to reach specific areas, adding to the challenge. The initial unlocked ship is particularly difficult to handle, contributing to my frustration. Despite my affection for many aspects of Lunar Lander Beyond, the ship's handling falls short of my expectations.

Final Grade: B-

Fans of early arcade games may find the challenge of Lunar Lander Beyond appealing due to its nostalgic presentation and gameplay. However, the handling issues of the ship detracted from my overall experience. While I appreciate the incorporation of stress into the game and its manifestation on the screen, the majority of my pilot's stress stemmed from the difficulty in handling the ship, which ultimately cheapened the experience. I commend the team for attempting something unique, but the core mechanic falls short of my expectations.

Review code provided by ÜberStrategist PR



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