Playing through “6180 the moon” was such a treat and a nice change of pace from most of the games on this show. There was nothing horribly confusing or frustrating that I ran into, and there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of information or understanding of mechanics needed in order to play. It was simply a pleasant, relaxing adventure.
The layout of the progression through the stages was probably the strongest force that kept this game from becoming a source of flustered hatred for me. If the individual levels had been longer, or if there had not been save points in a few of them, then the game would’ve been much harder. However, I don’t believe that the developers were trying to create a punishing, confrontational affair the likes of “Super Meat Boy” or “They Bleed Pixels”. Instead, this expansive series was easily digestible when done one short stage at a time and often left me saying “just one more”. I think creators of any art form can be considered successful if the audience wants to continue enjoying their work.
The whole game revolves around your usual platformer gameplay, but with two slight variations:
- You can jump really, really high.
- The screen is continuous from bottom to top and vice versa.
Alongside these two core concepts are a handful of supplementary mechanics that get added with each sequential planet visit. Earth is where we first run into the breakable blocks that propel the moon when hit from above or below. Venus is scattered with zones that fade in and out of solidity at set intervals. These zones can be used in the same way as solid platforms, or they could freeze the moon in place if they phase into existence while you are moving through the area. The planet also contains balls of light that can be collected and then expended in order to immediately stop your momentum. These orbs don’t make you jump or fly back the other direction, but instead simply bring vertical motion to zero for a brief blip before you begin falling again. Mercury’s stages have falling obstacles to dodge, switches that break a set of blocks when pressed, and many moving platforms that you have to land on at the right time in order to avoid spikes or gain another jump. And finally, the Sun’s stages combine several of these new interactive layers to give you a sense of the puzzle-in-full rather than the isolated, disjointed pieces that the previous planets provided.
But each stage doesn’t just add a unique aspect to the gameplay – there is an overarching story (believe it or not) in which the moon is searching for the sun, believing that he is lost. Along the way, the moon meets Earth, Venus, and Mercury, all of whom have distinct personalities that crop up during the cut scenes between stages. The moon seems very child-like, as if he is a young boy in search of his older brother or father, the sun. He is very single-minded and naïve, and often doesn’t fully grasp what the other planets are saying to him. Earth has a sense of being the mother figure towards the moon – being encouraging and very understanding of the his predicament – but does not display these same feelings towards the human population living on her. Venus has some sort of self-obsession or vanity complex, and is portrayed as uninterested in what the moon is trying to do. Instead, she spends all of her time looking into a mirror and admiring herself.
And then there’s Mercury.
Mercury is… I dunno, paranoid? Close-minded? A conspiracy theorist? It’s difficult to really pin down what Mercury’s character center is. It’s almost as if spending a lifetime that close to the sun has damaged his cognitive ability and the core of his personality. Whatever the game designers intended on portraying through Mercury, it’s certainly clear he isn’t helpful to the moon.
The audio and visual design of the game is a calming minimalism that creates a peaceful environment for the gameplay. The simple graphics of white objects against a monochromatic background makes obstacles more defined, and since there isn’t a wave of colors and graphics bombarding your vision there is nothing that gets lost in the mix – except for one little thing. The breakable boxes that act as spring triggers look just like regular platforms but have a dull gray outline instead of a bright white outline. It was often pretty difficult to differentiate on the fly whether I was about to land safely on the ground or be rocketed back in to orbit and – in many cases – a ceiling of spikes. I think these blocks would’ve stood out easier if they were shaded in with a low-opacity gray or something instead, but this is a small point and didn’t really hurt anything in the long run.
The music for each world was unique, though very similar – relaxing, bare sweeps of synth and strings matched the mood of the game, keeping the overall feel calm, happy, and peaceful. The score definitely helped in keeping my temper down on the small handful of problematic stages that I encountered.
These problem levels came during the back half of the game, when upon reaching the sun and discovering that everything is A-OK, the moon must set and return to his spot in the sky. This return journey consisted of playing through the game’s levels in reverse order, except now the gravity polarity was reversed. Even pressing the jump button meant that I would send the moon rocketing downward through the bottom of the screen and hitting a trajectory base before rising back to the platforms above. This regression was the most difficult section of the game, not because it was inherently hard, but because it was a constant struggle to keep myself in the frame of mind that “jump” is now down and “fall” is now up.
Now, I was already used to the concept of moving through one side of a game screen and popping out the other side on account of my family and friends often joining us to play “TowerFall” together. And even in some of the forward-moving stages I got screwed by this infinite-falling mechanic speeding me up too quickly so that I couldn’t safely navigate to a platform to land on. But taking that idea and completely reversing it really spun my brain around for a bit. On top of that, you are doing the stages in reverse order – meaning you are going back through the hardest stages first before you get used to the sensation switch. I was actually tempted to just flip my screen upside-down in order to get through a few of the more vexing areas, but that would have defeated the purpose of what the designers had in mind for the player to experience.
I did wind up completing this game without altering anything outside of the intended experience, and took a little under two hours to do so. On top of that, I was able to attain all the achievements without really trying (but they’re not difficult – most of them are simply “get to this level”, but there are a handful that are based off of player actions taken in the stages). And while yes – there were a few stages I got frustrated with, the game is not intended to be a rage-inducing experience. It’s more about exploring the different mechanics within a simple platformer that has a single different twist – the top and bottom of the screen overlaps. The game designers want the players to finish the game, see everything it has to offer, and enjoy it in its totality.
“6180 the moon” is a calming sigh amidst the sea of flashing lights, blasting beats, and nerve-wracking experiences that most interactive experiences try to offer.
And sometimes… it’s just nice to breath a bit.