The last time I wrote about the product of speed-dev competition Ludum Dare, it was about a game that evolved from an entry to LD20 back in 2011. This time, I’m looking at The Sun and Moon, the winner of Ludum Dare 29 in April, 2014. As one would probably expect of the product of a two-day development cycle, The Sun and Moon presents a pretty simple premise, control scheme, and overall aesthetic. The way that each of these works together, though, creates a fascinating, difficult, and engaging puzzler.
The Sun and Moon is, in effect, the very essence of a platform-puzzler. Like a distilled version of many an entry to the genre, it strips away all pretense of characterization or story for a pure, minimalist experience. Play starts off with some simple hopping puzzles, letting you get the hang of navigating the game’s world. Before long, though, the game introduces its defining feature — the ability to burrow or dive into the ground. Done from a height, this can create a slingshot effect, allowing you to reach areas far above what would otherwise be in range.
Navigating each level in The Sun and Moon is a matter of successful jumping, burrowing, and dodging obstacles. Offering a generous portion of stationary spikes, the game also introduces moving fireballs, vanishing blocks, and other devious impediments to progress. Half the time, it’s simply finding a balance in vertical motion; flying too high often results in a lack of recovery, while burrowing from too-great heights will plunge you straight through the bottom of a floating platform.
By keeping itself to, in essence, a single mechanic, The Sun and Moon creates an extremely unique and playable game, providing plenty of variety to the puzzles and their solutions by adding in new elements. As you complete more levels, the world map expands in nearly every direction; certain areas remain closed off until enough levels are completed, but there’s no need to stick to one path or complete anything in a linear fashion. These branches extend outward into areas of different colours, each boasting unique challenges. There are even “boss” levels that feature an ever-approaching enemy that must be avoided during play.
If there’s one trend I’ve found myself loving from the modern surge of indie titles, it’s a well-executed minimalism. With simple graphics, clever yet natural controls, and a unique mechanic for a classic genre, The Sun and Moon is a title that shines. While the music is a bit droning, it fits the rest of the theme well enough and isn’t required to play. For the sheer number and variety of levels available, it’s an easy recommendation at a modest $9.99 on Steam. For anyone who loves old-school platforming simplicity with a fresh twist, you owe it to yourself to look into The Sun and Moon.