Many games are based around a quest to restore the light. Normally it's a kind of metaphorical light used to symbolize peace and hope; an attempt to fight back against the darkness and restore balance. 6180 the moon does away with pretense and sets up the most universally pivotal journey of all - bringing the Sun back to life.
Developer Turtle Cream has certainly raised the bar when it comes to platforming heroes, as our protagonist this time takes the form of the Moon itself. Against expectation, it's far from some cumbersome mass hauling itself around the cosmos, however. Here the Moon is represented as a dancing orb of light on a simple mission to rescue a friend and find out why the Sun ever disappeared in the first place. Along the way you'll meet other planets such as Earth and Venus - each with their own personalities and concerns - but your goal is always dead ahead.
The gameplay itself is quite simple and controls like a traditional side-scrolling platformer. Moving and jumping feels smooth and simplistic at first, though after your first real leap into the air you'll quickly pick up on what sets this title apart. As the Moon leaves the top or bottom of the TV screen, it will reappear at that same spot on the Wii U GamePad, and vice-versa. This adds a whole new layer to level design; it prompts the player to focus on both screens at once, setting up all kinds of mind-bending courses to navigate. Almost at the exact moment this mechanic clicked with us, a little snippet of text popped up on the screen to answer our silent question - "Yes, they are connected!"
6180 the moon is also available on PC and other platforms, where the top and bottom of the screen are displayed as one whole, but the Wii U's unique capabilities make this the definitive version in our eyes. The GamePad is put to excellent use; enabling a wholly original way to navigate the dreamlike landscapes by constantly switching your attention between two completely separate screens. It caught us off guard in a way that platformers so rarely do anymore, and forced us to think carefully about every jump. There are entire levels only available on Wii U as well, (including one that should seem very familiar to Mario fans...) which really make use of this dual-screen system. It's the kind of quiet brilliance that truly justifies the unique hardware.
It certainly takes some getting used to, however, so the game starts slow to help gradually ease you in. Blank backgrounds steadily give way to more complex layouts, with moving platforms and disappearing blocks complicating things as you advance. Without the risk of pitfalls, spikes are your primary obstacle throughout the game, and they're everywhere. Their sharp edges serve as an early warning, eventually blending together into diamonds and stars that require some precise jumping. There's a nice difficulty curve overall with some occasional peaks and dips, but once you've figured out how to work the dual-screen system and keep on top of your movement, it never gets overly challenging.
While the graphics are minimal and simplistic, often rendered solely in black and white, we can't fault the game for establishing a whimsical mood and sticking with it from beginning to end. There aren't any particularly memorable vistas or visual standouts,but everything looks clean and uncomplicated; this is refreshingly easy on the eyes. It feels like an abstract vision of space with the slightest hint of eerie undertones. A beautifully subdued score and an effective use of sound helps bring it all together, with lilting piano pieces throughout.
Your trip to the Sun spans 5 different areas with 10 stages each, ranging in length from about two to five minutes at most. There's a small element of trial-and-error involved in solving some puzzles, but frequent checkpoints take frustration out of the equation entirely so the whole experience is quite relaxed. We drifted through the main story in a couple of hours, which unlocked a pretty straightforward mirror-mode that helps beef up the content somewhat. While the plot isn't anything too amazing, the characters are fun and it does wrap up on a sweet, reflective note to cap off your astral mission.
Aside from a few meaningless achievements there isn't much else on offer here once you've reached the end, but it's a brief journey that's well worth taking - especially for the bargain price of £3.59 / €3.99 / $3.99 at the time of writing. The framerate is smooth, load times are more than acceptable, and while off-screen play isn't supported, we can understand how this would detract from the game's standout mechanic.
Fun fact - 6180 the moon is named after the amount of seconds it took to create the game's first prototype. It's a quirky name for a quirky platformer, but also hides a brilliant mechanic that works better than ever on Wii U. Its basic visuals help focus the gameplay between two screens at once, and the short adventure offers up an enjoyable challenge without any stress. Remarkably relaxing, relatively light on content but very fun indeed, this trip to the sun is short but very sweet.