Space Moth DX was already an accomplished CAVE-style shoot-’em-up that put a unique risk/reward twist on the familiar dichotomy of the rapid-fire spread shot and a high-power, focused laser. With a remixed scoring system and new mechanics, Space Moth: Lunar Edition —1CC Games’ answer to CAVE’s Black Labels—takes those same ideas to exhilarating new heights.
As in the original, Lunar Edition still sees you weighing the benefits of easily killing enemies with your laser, or using your spread shot to first “soul drain” them—making them shoot more complicated, difficult bullet patterns, but with a nice score bonus if you kill them in this state. This time around, there’s the added wrinkle of “Skull Mode”: when activated, any enemy bullet that gets close to you turns into a scoring item, making it extremely useful both for scoring and as a survival tool. The catch is that it charges much faster when you’re firing your spread shot.
When playing purely for survival, there’s a fascinating tug of war between these systems. Relying solely on your laser and avoiding the extra challenge posed by soul-drained enemies might be “safer”, but it also means getting to reap the bullet-cancelling benefits of Skull Mode far less frequently. Playing for score means figuring out the best way to use these systems in tandem, the compound effects of soul-drain kills and well-timed Skull Mode activations being the key to topping the leaderboards.
In either case, the process of mastering the intricacies of these systems—and learning to navigate the mesmerising bullet mazes that Space Moth subjects you to, in true bullet hell fashion—is endlessly satisfying. It’s made an the more so by Lunar Edition‘s psychedelic sense of style: vivid neon insects and fungi set against a dreamy cosmic backdrop, while an uncharacteristically mellow score fills the speakers. It’s functional, too, with stark enemy bullets that always stand out and extremely useful sound effects to help convey crucial information, like when your Skull Mode is fully charged.
A robust practice mode helps a lot, too, though I wouldn’t mind the option of a free-play mode to unwind with some mindless coin-feeding. A limit of three continues max isn’t too onerous, especially when the game’s core design lets customise the difficulty on the fly, to an extent. But I also know I’m not alone in finding the low pressure of unlimited continues more conducive to good practice (and also just more fun).
With Lunar Edition being Black Label-style remix rather than just an updated or enhanced version, it’s a bit of a shame the original Space Moth or DX version aren’t included (especially since they’re not otherwise available on Switch). But, nice as such inclusions would be, they’re far from necessary—a clever twist on classic bullet hell action and systemic interplay that’s a delight to explore make Space Moth: Lunar Edition more than capable of standing on its own.
Space Moth: Lunar Edition
Developer: 1CC Games
Publisher: Chorus Worldwide Games
Genre: Shoot-’em-up, Bullet Hell
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release date: 18 November 2021
A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.