Hunter's Moon (Commodore 64)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

With Stavros Fasoulas out of the picture, Thalamus had to look elsewhere for someone that could do their label justice. And where they looked was in the direction of Martin Walker. It might have seemed an odd move... his games until then hadn't exactly set the world on fire, although his Chameleon had been praised by the lads at ZZAP!. It would be interesting to see where he would take Thalamus...

An easy start. Shoot your way in, collect the starcell, job done.

It turned out he would take them back into space. Hunter's Moon is a game that I didn't give a lot of time to in its day. I found it too difficult and a bit too odd as a shoot 'em up... it's not an immediate game, it's not instantly action-packed and, as shooters go, it actually takes a fair bit of thought. Over the years it's been championed very strongly by ZZAP! 64's Gordon Houghton (or as I like to call him after one crazy night in Oxford, my pool brother... but that's another story). So there must be something to it that I missed at the time...

Twinkle, twinkle, little starcell...

Hunter's Moon, as previously mentioned, is a space-based shoot 'em up. There are 128 levels in the game, spread across 16 ever-more-complex star systems... a mighty proposition. You're trapped in a galaxy of organically-engineered hives... beautiful structures that it almost seems a shame to destroy. However - these hives contain starcells, and you need to obtain these in order to make your escape.

This is a bonus subgame. No starcells here, just shooting.

Now, when I talk about destroying the hives... you can't actually do that. Workers patrol the perimeters, constantly refreshing the walls. If you damage any part of a hive, it'll be rebuilt on the workers' next circuit. That being the case, you have to get in and out of there quickly, especially as you'll also die on contact with a worker.

It's been quite an odyssey, getting here...

Luckily, you have time to plan your moves. You can fly around the outer rims and use your radar to work out the best, quickest and safest ways to the starcells. And if you pick one up while it's still flashing, you'll obtain one of the four co-ordinates you need to escape the current star system.

OK, now this is getting a little bit hairy.

That all makes it sound terribly easy, but as well as trying to figure out your way in... and take it from me, with the routes those workers take, that's far from easy... you'll also have to watch out for their defensive firepower. Well, you are a thieving, laser-blasting scumbag... they're within their rights to try and ward you off. And they're good at it too... it's not long before they're throwing homing bullets at you, so the idea of just sitting there and planning your strategy goes out the window.

Oh no! They've bricked me in!

Hunter's Moon is a very clever game. It's superbly designed and structured, extremely polished with beautiful graphics and excellent sound, and it's a very challenging game, but not to the point of frustration. It seems like a bit of a slog, especially having to play through from the start every time, but once you get better at the early levels and can start skipping a few, you can concentrate on learning how to get past the more difficult stuff. Having finally played it properly, I reckon it still stands up as a great game, and a unique entry into the shoot 'em up field. I feel a bit silly for not paying it more attention years ago. Great stuff.