Moons of Darsalon is that rare sort of game that makes an escort mission fun. Instead of trying to just get your guy to the end of a level, this '50s raygun sci-fi platformer sees you rescuing fellow spacemen and herding them through gauntlets of escalating difficulty and complexity.
Darsalon's seven-level free demo offers a gamut of early challenges from the game. It starts with just getting a handle on the game's squad commands, or using a surprisingly versatile flashlight to guide your hapless charges through darkened tunnels. but by the end you find yourself defending them with a laser rifle, keeping the skies clear with a handy jetpack, and even crafting terrain for your little guys to hop on.
The demo gives me this glimpse of the rich, playful toolbox developer Dr. Kucho! has to construct their levels, and I can easily imagine the insanity of late-game missions mixing and matching these mechanics. The game's trailers also provide a glimpse of advanced vehicles like a full-on space marine dropship that'll add plenty of spice to the full game.
I'm hardly in possession of a great strategic mind or anything, so I appreciate the gradations of success to Darsalon's missions. It's enough to just make it to the end of a level with enough rescuees to get past its security gates (you must have so many little goofballs to pass! sort of deals). Added challenge comes with making sure everybody lives, clearing the levels quickly, and meeting level-specific challenges like delivering all your little guys to the end at the same time.
I had one point in the demo where I lost an astronaut to a jump he really ought to have made, but otherwise these guys are just helpless enough to keep its traversal puzzles interesting. I'd also be remiss if I failed to mention its impeccable visual style—everything's got this classic Trek/Forbidden Planet sense of sci-fi kitsch, and Darsalon deftly mixes expressive pixel art characters (these guys are so wiggly!), matte painting-style background art, and 3D renders turned into sprites straight out of the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis generation.
Moons of Darsalon is a challenging, charming little puzzle-platformer, and I highly recommend checking out its free demo and wishlisting the game on Steam. Moons of Darsalon is slated for a full release on April 19.