Moonstone Island

Moonstone Island

If Stardew Valley and Pokemon had a baby, that would be Moonstone Island – although a lot of people prefer to compare it to Slay the Spire rather than Pokemon. The game is an adorable pixel-art farming sim / life sim, in which you adventure in the wild to engage in pet battles and collect spirits instead of fighting off enemies.

As a life sim, Moonstone Island has all the mechanics that you would expect from the genre. You plant seeds, tend to them and harvest them for consumables to be used in pet battles or sell them to the general shop in town. You can also mine and chop trees, whose resulting resources allow you to craft building stations and furniture items or upgrade your items and home. The little town has plenty of interesting characters that you can build your friendships with, or even romantically pursue. The universe of Moonstone Island offers 100 uniquely-generated floating mini-islands for you to explore at your own pace and a nice cozy story, closely guided through quests, with a good mix of easily reachable objectives and long-term goals.

As a creature collector, Moonstone Island provides a really entertaining experience through its card-based pet battles, where the decks of your active pets are put together. This allows you to combine these cards for fun combos, as long as the cards drawn are suitable for that. The designs of the 70 spirits that you can tame are full of creativity, one more adorable than the other. Also very cute is that your pet team follows you around like little ducklings when you move on the map, although sometimes they tend to get in your way, especially when farming; however, there’s an option to make them stop following you. The pets that you don’t bring into battle can be stored either in a barn or in a research center, the difference between these two being that the latter does not require any maintenance on your part. The pets stored in your barn need to be fed constantly and in return, they drop items required for quest completion, for crafting or which can be sold for some extra income.

Each of these two aspects of the gameplay has its own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the crafting part is very straightforward, requiring only a couple of steps even for more complex items. The tools don’t have that annoying durability mechanic that requires you to always craft a new one every few days. The plants require daily watering (aside from rainy days), but the watering can doesn’t ever need to be filled and besides, you can just craft sprinklers to water your plants automatically. There are plenty of basic resources to gather (although trees and grass don’t automatically respawn) and the mines that you can open on each island are rich in minerals, chests that drop blueprints, and spirits to tame. On the other hand, a lot of the items required for progression (such as the barn or essential flying items) are gated behind the acquisition of Moonstones. Up until close to the endgame where you get a blueprint to mass-produce them, likely for transitioning into a sandbox kind of gameplay, these are extremely rare: each island contains only one per season, and very few bosses or chests drop any. Due to their scarcity, the progression is extremely slow, and exploring as many islands as possible quickly becomes your main goal. This in turn requires you to be able to fly greater distances (to reach further islands) and to be equipped to fight any enemies that you might find there.

In regards to the deckbuilding aspect, you get to expand your deck by one random card (chosen out of three possible ones that the game offers) every time you level your pet. Upgrading or removing a card is possible, however you will need special tokens for that, which are also quite rare (you can find one every few islands). Thus, while the battles are really fun, the deckbuilding mechanic is rather restrictive, as you don’t have full flexibility in customizing your deck. Moonstone Island also offers 30 rather lengthy, yet very exciting dungeons, where you get to solve little puzzles, uncover chests and fight higher-level spirits.

Like pretty much any other game belonging to the genre, Moonstone Island is quite addictive. There’s always something to do or explore, and your stamina bar allows you to perform enough activities to keep you hooked throughout the entire in-game day. The game keeps things really fresh by throwing this mix of mechanics at you, which offers endless possibilities. However, keep in mind that the farming aspect is not the main focus of Moonstone Island. Instead, it’s used only as a support system for the pet battles, which is the actual essence of the gameplay.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a press preview copy of the game, kindly provided by Raw Fury via The Indie Game Collective.

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