How Metroidvania is it? Barely Comparable. Early on, you do need ability upgrades to progress, and each level has a large map to explore with secrets to be found, but ultimately this is a level-based affair.
Primary Challenge: Tricky Platforming
Time to beat: ~6 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Luna Sky RDX was provided by the developer. This game was reviewed during Early Access. We will revisit the game upon full release and update the review at that time.
Buy Luna Sky RDX if you like…
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Cryptic Sci-Fi plotlines
- Techno Music
- Broad player choice on how to progress through a level
- Leveling up to win
▼ Review continues below ▼
This game was reviewed as of Early Access Patch 2.0.1
Luna Sky RDX, from a gameplay perspective, is what might happen if you added ability gating and RPG elements to Sonic the Hedgehog. The Sonic series already has pretty open levels, so mixing in a little Metroidvania isn’t too far fetched, and the idea has potential. However, the RPG aspect – at least how Luna Sky RDX has it implemented – allows the player to adjust the physics behind what should be tight platforming, which so far is a design challenge that Luna Sky RDX hasn’t tackled well. Platforming games are also exalted or destroyed by their level design, and while overall Luna Sky is a decently fun experience, it’s a bit too rough around the edges to compete with other options.
That roughness in design is apparent right from the beginning when you’re greeted with two enemies that they give no direction on how to kill. They immediately attack you with lightning that you won’t know how to dodge. You’re intended to just run past them, but that intention is poorly conveyed. As it turns out, defeating enemies is achieved by obtaining enough velocity and then ramming them with a jump attack; simply jumping at them isn’t enough. It’s awkward, but effective, and the tutorial for how this works is just poorly timed.
Once you pass those initial introductory scenes and get into the meat of the game, there’s a lot to like about it. Each level is very open, giving you a ton of freedom to just enjoy the flow of your movement. Most of the time there are multiple paths that lead to your objective. You’re always told where you need to go next, and you can view that location on your map. However the route to get there is completely up to you. Running through the levels is relaxing, and having choices for progression means that if a specific solution or path is frustrating, you can just try another.
Occasionally the level will bottleneck into a single pathway, which is usually where you’ll find an ability gate that you need a double jump, laser gun, or use another movement upgrade to continue. I can’t think of any gate that didn’t have the movement upgrade right next to where you need it, so the division is more about separating areas where you need the power and areas where you don’t. Sometimes you get ability upgrades between the levels, so the game is “Metroidvania” in its initial offerings – at least for finding optional secrets – but in later stages new abilities become more akin to level gimmicks than the permanent exploration tools in a purer Metroidvania game.
Collectibles add an extra layer of depth to the stages and are representative of the game’s true tests. The downside to their existence is that they detract somewhat from the benefit of choice that you would otherwise have. Without them, the game has strong replay value thanks to the plethora of paths you could take, either to challenge yourself or to mitigate the challenge. Collecting the optional items makes it necessary for you to go to specific places, so 100% runs would start to feel more similar. However, one of the great design choices in Luna Sky RDX is that every save point is also a teleportation node, so you can run to the end of the level and collect any new abilities available, then backtrack to anywhere you want to find the collectibles – as long as you’re still on the same level. Many “secrets” are marked on your map, making the secret more about how to get to it rather than just searching for it. This convenience dispels any frustration you might have checking every corner of an enormous map, and it really adds value to the teleport system.
Simply playing in the levels and looking for secrets is the best part of the game, but the level design does get a little fatiguing, especially near the end. There was definitely a quantity over quality mentality when the final level was designed, and while I think it does do a great job testing all of the skills you’ve learned throughout the game, you can only be tested so much before it gets boring.
Probably the biggest issue the level design has to deal with though is how the character leveling system allows the player to mess with the physics of the game. You can adjust how fast you run, how high you jump and double jump, and all of this changes how you might expect your character to behave as you play the level. I think it’s perhaps because of this that I found myself completely stuck at times. For example, I was once in a half-pipe that I couldn’t get Luna to run up to the top, or sometimes I’d overshoot a platform because I had pumped all my experience points into jumping. It’s possible that the level design would have these issues regardless of what I chose to do, but nevertheless, fiddling with the physics was an issue I had often throughout my play time.
The movement physics are only one of the game-changing factors the player has the power to control; movement upgrades also compete for experience points with Luna’s EMP gun. The gun is very important for fighting the game’s bosses, and I spent a frustrating amount of time on one boss in particular because I couldn’t figure out how to deal damage to him based on what I had spent my levels on. You are allowed to refund points you spent and spend them elsewhere, which is good because if it weren’t for this I probably would have been completely stuck. In the second half of the game I was pulling up my menu and reallocating my points often for the situation, which I couldn’t help but feel wasn’t the game I signed up for. I’d have preferred spending my time enjoying the platforming. None of the bosses have particularly interesting patterns, but niggles related to the leveling system make them feel like the worst part of the game.
Players that put the time into exploring each level thoroughly probably won’t have any of the issues I’ve discussed, since you get bonus experience for completion that will undoubtedly have you overpowered to face the game’s challenges. Once you’ve passed a level, however, you can’t go back. Once you engage a boss fight, you’re stuck there until you defeat it; you can’t leave to go level up some more. Having the ability to select previous chapters would help the game a lot, assuming leveling up is going to continue to have such an important effect on the player experience.
Personally I’d reconsider allowing the player to change the movement physics so drastically and focus on leveling out controls so it becomes a tighter platformer. The idea of changing the way the player jumps isn’t a bad one; “high jump” is a standard Metroidvania upgrade. Being able to adjust the physics so subtly and up to such extremes, however, adds too many variables for the player to keep track of, especially when your game includes slopes and bounce pads and tether slings and skating and more that they already have to figure out. Scaling back the upgrades to more defined and predictable effects that clearly make the game easier may be a better approach. The experience system does add value to the exploration, which is a great thing to encourage, but maybe the game would be better without it.
I say all this with a disclaimer that I played this game during its Early Access. When the developer asked me to review this game they did say that the main story was done and only side content would be added – but that doesn’t mean things can’t change. Therefore, anything I’ve said in this review could be made obsolete before its official release. I am happy to report that the development team is very responsive. When I encountered a game breaking bug related to my AMD video card, they had a fix implemented in less than three days. As with any game I review during Early Access, I am willing to revisit Luna Sky RDX and update my review upon its full release.
If this game is considered finished, I’ll bluntly say that it’s not particularly great. However, it’s still unique, and I still found some relaxation in the experience. If the bosses and leveling system were revamped and the controls were tightened up, it’d actually be a very decent game. In its current state it’s harder to recommend, but I also didn’t find myself completely bored or so frustrated that I didn’t want to continue. I think the game is good enough that it deserves player support, but if you decide that you’re interested, keep in mind that for as long as it’s in early access you may find yourself supporting more than you want to.
Before you get a certain upgrade, enemies are defeated by ramming into them which can be a little Wonky. After you are fully upgraded it's just a matter of shooting fish in a barrel.
The main draw of the game which is unfortunately encumbered by some directionless level design and some hard to predict physics. Still generally relaxing and fun.
Since leveling up is crucial to adjusting the game's difficulty, finding the otherwise arbitrary collectables is fairly rewarding
Occasionally there are some puzzle platform like situations where you need to find your way out of a trap, otherwise I'd say it's not a focus
The plot is a little confusing just playing through without finding and reading all of the datalogs
Very reminiscent of the 90s TV show ''Reboot'' - whether that's good or bad is a matter of taste.
Ambient techno music is pretty good if you like the genre
Similar to the Sonic Games, because of how open the levels are you can play through them differently each time - however if you really want the collectables each playthrough then that choice is an illusion
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