December 16, 2015 1:15 PM | John Bridgman
With the recent batch of AAA releases on the console market, in time for many folks' holiday season, an independent title can get lost in the shuffle of flashy, big budget marketing. The ID@Xbox program has added some interesting titles to the console's library, and 6180 The Moon, a minimalist platformer from Korean developer Turtle Cream, is one such endearing game recently released on the Xbox One that is worth bringing attention to.
Released last year on Steam, the game appears to be a fairly simple platformer, but it has an interesting mechanical quirk to its play. You play as the moon, who has gone looking for a recently departed sun. Your journey takes you through the solar system in a delightfully minimalist and peacefully ambient platforming adventure, meeting various heavenly bodies and reflecting on your role and theirs in the system. The primary gameplay mechanic is that the top and bottom of the screen loop, so when you fall off the bottom of the screen, you loop back to the top, and vice versa.
The majority of levels focus primarily this mechanic exclusively, so you'll have to watch where you jump to and fall from to be sure to avoid the obstacles the game throws your way. And the game has no qualms about throwing obstacles at you. There are plenty of spikes that will send you back to your last checkpoint if you aren't careful. Thankfully, the checkpoints are fairly placed throughout each stage, and there's almost no time between death and respawn.
Another side effect of the looping mechanic is that you will continue to accelerate due to gravity as you loop. This is a bit of a nuisance, since generally speaking you'll not be able to react precisely enough to make your landing as you want, and most high speed freefalls like this translate more into a precursor to a retry than a chance to adjust to your next move. I feel like this is a bit of a missed opportunity for some more interesting explorations of the mechanic, but it's only a minor annoyance.
The platforming itself, its core mechanic aside, is functional. It's not trying to do too much fancy, instead letting its looping mechanic carry the bulk of the gameplay, and I think it's better for that. There are a few variances to be had as you play, including springy platforms which cause an extra-high rebound when touched (and which break upon contact), and one-shot pickups that allow you to immediately start falling, changing your momentum in curious ways. That last mechanic can get frustrating, because it can be a little difficult to predict how it's going to play out, but I was certainly glad to have the variety.
Despite having a minimalist presentation, the game is quite charming to look at. The cutscenes where the moon and a heavenly body discuss the solar system are surprisingly endearing, and while the nearly monochrome colour palette is by nature limited, it does have some very warm glows that make the game more inviting to play. Also the soundtrack is relaxing and lovely, and serves to enhance the game's ambiance and atmosphere very well.
The actual narrative itself might be a bit heavy-handed for such a charming game, but I can't really fault it. The cutscenes break up the segments of the game adequately, and though they might not be the most deep philosophical discussions, they do give the game a sense of personality that it would otherwise lack. They were brief enough that they never took me out of the game, and I looked forward to seeing the next heavenly body to interact with before a new batch of levels to play through.
If you're looking for something a bit simpler, 6180 The Moon is a nice contrast to the recent big name releases on the Xbox One. Its clever gameplay and charming atmosphere carry it well, even when the story tries a bit too hard to be deep. There aren't a lot of games like it on that console either, so I think if you're a fan of more ambient platformers, this could be worth looking into for you too.