My first run-in with Kitfox Games was through an appointment to check out Boyfriend Dungeon at PAX West. It was ridiculous, cute, and fun, and I knew by the end of the demo that I would be backing it on Kickstarter. One of those kickstarter perks was getting codes for several other Kitfox games, which honestly sat in my library for a bit alongside many other things. When I was making my schedule for #loveindies, I absolutely knew I wanted to finally try one, and the description of “co-op personality test rpg” sold me on Moon Hunters right away.
First thing’s first – I call things “lovely” a lot, but Moon Hunters set a whole new bar. The pixelated gameplay screens were nostalgic and colourful, while the art was absolutely stunning – it was like looking at an interactive painting. The opening and ending scenes were beautiful and moving. The soundtrack (which you can purchase for $9.99 on Steam) is one of the best I’ve heard lately. Aesthetically, it’s an amazing experience. But of course there’s more to games than their outer layer – thankfully, Moon Hunters was just as enjoyable to play as it was to look at and listen to.
Since great, quirky co-op games can be hard to come by, I was really excited to get my friend Shyce in on the gameplay with me. Not knowing what to expect, we chose our characters and hometowns, and loaded into the middle of a small forest, where we soon realized nearly everything wanted to kill us. As we moved on, camped, and moved into the real story – the declarations of war from the Sun Cult, the moon that wouldn’t rise, and the tales of other travelers along the way – the game evaluated our every decision. Players have five days to spend however they choose – there are various explorable areas, with new NPCs and places to find. By the end of the first night, we’d learned I was greedy (I just didn’t want to let drops go to waste! I swear!) and Shyce was brave. Everything we did added up into a fuller picture of our in-game personalities, letting us make new decisions along the way. By the end, our choices were written into beautiful histories – they were how we were remembered.
There are some skill-checks, but they’re not too bad. You might need more bravery to enter a doorway, or more foolishness to destroy a shrine, but in our playthroughs we were often able to increase those attributes soon enough. The gameplay for our first two characters was really smooth and understandable. We both struggled with our second choices (the sun cultist and the songweaver), but I’m pretty sure it was less of a game issue and more of an us issue (ouch – that hurt to say) – each character has a vastly different play style, with varying degrees of difficulty.
I loved the co-op aspect – it was completely unlike other games I’ve played, and I loved having a friend along. It was especially interesting to see how differently we wanted to approach some situations – the co-op aspect of Moon Hunters isn’t about pvp or just barreling through the game more easily. It’s about defining who you are. Because we sometimes had different opinions on how to proceed, we soon realized that if we didn’t agree, the game would choose an option for us – it wasn’t necessary to pick the same side. We were each free to define ourselves as we wanted.
I also loved the cumulative aspect of the game. By unlocking new choices and maps, no playthrough feels wasted – you have a ripple effect on your world that keeps carrying through. Since the game lasts only five in-game days, I worried that it might feel rushed, or there would be pressure to do too much too fast. Instead, we could think about what we wanted to do in our next lives, while fully enjoying the one we were on.
Moon Hunters is definitely a great experience, and has a lot of replay value. Each playthrough is fairly short – once you know what you’re doing, they’re probably only around an hour – so it’s easy to do a bit at a time. We’re already planning to go back and play more, to see what other secrets this amazing game hides!
Kitfox Games, of course, has a game library with other interesting themes as well, including The Shrouded Isle (a Lovecraftian management sim) and Shattered Planet (a strategy rogue-like), but what I’m most excited about this year is their aforementioned upcoming release, Boyfriend Dungeon. If descriptions like “romance your swords” and “regen health with bubble tea” seem up your ally, check out my PAX West spotlight article, and my interview with Kitfox Games!