While many portable games praised for their accessibility and simple controls are often times associated with mobile game platforms, DSiWare is not without its own quality pick-up-and play titles. Games like Reflect Missile, Pop Plus: Solo and the Art Style series offer satisfyingly simple gameplay perfect for short bursts of gaming, and now, we can add Gaia’s Moon to that list.
Using only one button to control gameplay, your goal is to guide a boy named Atreyu across six automatically side-scrolling 2D stages. You guide Atreyu with just a single button — either X. Y, A or B — manoeuvring him to avoid all incoming obstacles. Pressing a button causes Atreyu to soar upward, while releasing it allows him to descend.
This simple mechanic delivers deceptively challenging gameplay, however, as Atreyu will carry momentum, causing him to float a bit upon release. This keeps you from stopping your vertical movements on a dime, tasking you instead with anticipating obstacles and ensuring that you do not overcompensate while dodging.
Levels are cleverly designed, teaching you repeated patterns only to tweak them slightly later on to fake you out. There is a good amount of memorisation needed as well, as you have only one life with which to complete the game. This means you may find yourself restarting from the beginning several times over, but with three levels of difficulty, you can start out easy to learn the levels and then bump up the challenge later on.
Enemies and obstacles each have different movements and patterns, with sharks that jump out of the water, eyeballs that stare in the direction they are about to attack and flying fish that lazily ebb and flow across the screen. The 2D presentation lends itself nicely to the side-scrolling design, and the music is quite catchy, with a simple, yet retro feel. The stylised level backgrounds also don't hurt, with layered clouds and a sunset sky that create a colourful world that's a joy to play through, even on your fifth attempt.
Once you complete the game you’ll enter another round, which sends you back though the game at a quickened pace. There’s no online component, but your own high scores are saved, allowing you and other nearby players to try to beat your best performance.
There's also an inventive two-player mode that allows both players to participate at the same time. Since gameplay revolves around only a single button, the second player can use the D-Pad to control a second character situated on the top screen. This can feel a bit cramped, but is still a welcome feature, even allowing you to test your dexterity and try your hands at controlling both characters at once.
At just 200 Nintendo Points, Gaia's Moon offers a short but sweet adventure that delivers charming 2D visuals, catchy tunes and simple, yet challenging gameplay. While the honeymoon won't last forever, you'll be left with a simple joy that can be hard to find.