September 20, 2012 8:30 PM | Staff
[Guest reviewer Colin Brown profiles each game in the Back to School Bundle currently running on IndieGames' co-created site Indie Royale.]
Ever wished for an HD remake of Lunar Lander? Because that's exactly what Sean 壮h0v0r・Edwards' Lunar Flight is, except taken to the absolute extreme. It's frankly shocking how much graphical fidelity, detail and realism can be squeezed out of such a simple premise, but that's what makes Lunar Flight such a fascinating game. With a robust physics system, complex interface and harsh difficulty, it isn't going to be for everyone. But if you've already got a good handle on the fiddly nature of flight sim games, Lunar Flight offers one of the most detailed (and perhaps only) simulations of a lunar probe out there.
In Lunar Flight, you begin with a probe in a simple little moon crater. You've got your typical up and down thrusters, a handful of engines that move you in the cardinal directions and a whole mess of jump jets for rolling, turning and flipping. The low atmosphere of the moon makes every moment slow and deliberate, so launching and landing are real feats that require a ton of patience and performance. Between station visits you need to perform missions by recovering gear, scanning areas and delivering cargo to earn funding for extra cash and upgrades. Performing well as a probe pilot will unlock new maps including larger swaths of the moon and a trip to Mars as well. Performing badly will lead to expensive repairs and refuel costs, and to be honest you'll probably be seeing more of these.
Lunar Flight isn't necessarily hard, but it is demanding and punishing. The otherworldly physics of low gravity and zero atmosphere simply makes controlling your craft a weirdly unfamiliar experience. But if you keep trying, and pay attention to sh0v0r's helpful flight school videos that are linked in game, one could eventually master the moon landings. In keeping with the game's demanding structure, there's very little in the way of computer compensation or autopilot. That's not to say you're on your own, as the multicamera format is wonderfully detailed with a total information overload about every little statistic and quirk. It's clear that Lunar Flight would rather help players by providing information in place of physical assistance, forcing the player into a self reliant role that many sim games would otherwise compensate for.
As I mentioned, this means the game probably isn't for everyone. It's probably not for me, and anyone looking for a more fluid and easier experience should maybe check out one of the other fine games in the Indie Royale. But there is an audience out there that Lunar Flight was built for, and its commitment to perfection makes this a game that audience should adore. If a hardcore space probe sim sounds like something you have even a passing interest in, there really doesn't seem to be a better choice than Lunar Flight.
[Lunar Flight, Cute Things Dying Violently, Sequence, Bunny Must Die, Swords & Soldiers (with its Super Saucy Sausage Fest DLC) and two other games are available now in Indie Royale's Back to School Bundle.]