Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider

As I navigate through this desolated world, I take on the role of the Moonrider, a warrior created by an authoritarian regime as a weapon of...

As I navigate through this desolated world, I take on the role of the Moonrider, a warrior created by an authoritarian regime as a weapon of war. But I have rejected my intended purpose, instead choosing a relentless battle for vengeance against my creators and fellow super soldiers. The combat is fast-paced and challenging, but I've mastered it and ready to take on all challengers that stand in my way. I run, jump and slash my way through eight deadly worlds, piecing together the truth behind the oppressive regime and fighting to bring freedom to the people. I am the unlikely hero that humanity needs, and I will stop at nothing to see the downfall of the tyrannical forces that created me!

What is it?

Blazing Chrome team JoyMasher, are back with another ode to 16-bit retro action games with "Vengeful Guadrian: Moonrider".  With its side-scrolling, fast-paced, and challenging gameplay. Players take on the role of a skilled ninja seeking revenge in a beautifully crafted, desolated world filled with intricate pixel art and fittingly crunchy audio. 

That sure is a mouthful to describe a game that brings cyborg ninja platform hack n slash and mixes it with a dash of Megaman, Shinobi and Nina Gaiden.  Eight massive stages offer a compact yet deadly gauntlet, where players will have to master the character's responsive and snappy combat mechanics to survive.

Moonrider, takes place over eight levels where other than the first and last level, you get direct control over the order in which you complete the level. Character controls are straight forward with Directional movements, up, down , left , right, Attack; A jump and a special attack button. The UI presents a simple health bar and next to it represent how much energy is left for the special attack. I also shows your lives left and the power-ups you have equipped. There are several ways you can earn power-ups in the game which could help you easier defeat different levels, very much in the style of the Megaman series.  Powerups can either be power modules or new abilities that assign to your special button. You can get unlock seven such abilities starting with moonspear a mid-distance laser stab that does a lot of damage, by defeating bosses along the various stages. Soon you will get other options such as a powerful dash move instead. You can only equip one, but they are easily adjusted with from a weapon wheel type interface. The power modules on the other hand are picked at the start of a level. There will be 12 available throughout the game and they can be found in hidden and more obvious areas throughout the various stages, encouraging some exploration and experimentation. With power-ups such as armour, double jump etc., the search is definitely worth it.  You can equip two at a time, but as I said they cannot be swapped mid game, unless you find a new one, at which point the game will ask you if you want to swap it. Other than that, you simply have to give up, go back to the world hub and start the level over, and pick your new modules. Sometimes these modules come at a cost, for instance the armour module will give allow you to take less damage, but you will never be able to rank above B for a level.
You will jump, dash and slash your way through a variety of environments, many of which showcase different types of gameplay and level design that do not straight copy elements from the 16-bit classics it clearly is inspired by, but the gameplay does have an echo to those days and often it feels “just like” those moments. At one point you will move around shinobi style, the next you are racing in a faux-3d parallax landscape through the city and then you are moving through a Metroid style puzzle style underwater level with switches and (some) backtracking. Each moment the gameplay feels authentic and just right.

Moonrider’s gameplay just feels truly authentic, yet the game does not reach the blood curdling, controller destroying levels of difficulty as these types of games served us back in the early nineties. For the most skilled players the game will come to be a bit short (approx. 2 hours) But for some old folks like me, that have a little slower reaction speed and dexterity these days that length may vary. That game is also clearly built for speed run challenges and replays finding all the upgrade and encourages the player to try to get the highest score for each level making the game an excellent distraction you could revisit for quite some time.


Developed during the height of the COVID scare, Moonrider reflects, by the creator 's own account, "some of our collective struggles and fears of the past three years" and the events in the game were modelled to real events and people in the duo's lives during those tumultuous pandemic moments. This is not to say that the game is a Debbie Downer or that it has a dark depressing ending. As was also the case in their previous game Blazing Chrome, the adventure ends with a dash of hope and optimism. This all culminated in a game that clearly is designed to illicit good memories.

From the opening scene to the moment that you start the game you are instantly sucked into the glory days of 16-bit gaming, with mostly a heavy focus on the Genesis/Megadrive days. With large sprites, crazy enemy designs, and parallax background imagery. With a crazy cyberpunk driven story light on content it plays out at a kids dream of what a futuristic story might play out like with them at the controls. 

The obvious influences by games such as Shinobi, Turrican, Contra and even mega-man create the perfect atmosphere and suck you right into the game and for those that were around back in the day creates a feeling of familiarity and comfort. With punchy and crunchy sound effects that closely resemble the raw sound emanating from the SEGA Genesis’ Yamaha YM2612/OPN 2 sound chip, only the music feels a little out of time as, though its greatness, is a bit too clean and modern. That said it is a fantastic soundtrack that helps complete the final product nicely. 

For extra authenticity Moonrider also has a build in CRT filter to give that little bit extra bringing it even close to how you remember gaming back in the day. This game would be one of those products that seem like an excellent fit for a Limited Run edition, as I can already envision the stylish Sega cartridge box and extras.

Final Thoughts

Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider jumps onto the scene firing on all cylinders and packs a mighty punch of nostalgia while still providing a fun experience for the younger audience that might not be as familiar with the genre. The guys at JoyMasher created a solid game that is an echo of the best the 16-bit era had to offer.  Thought the game is short and might not be the most challenging in comparison to its grandaddies, it offers a compact , fully action packed adventure that is highly enjoyable and ultimately succeeds bringing the fun days of 1993 into the future of early 2023. We all know that this year is looking to be a monster year of game releases and moonrider, even as a small indie contender, has set the tone for the rest of the year. 
Moonrider is a must-play for any fan of retro-action games and a testament to the enduring appeal of the genre.

GameVengeful Guardian: Moonrider 
PublisherThe Arcade Crew
Developer: JoyMasher
Release Date:  12 January 2023 ($16.99)
Platforms:  PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Amazon Luna 
Review Platform:  PS5
ESRB: T for Teen (Violence, Blood and Gore, Language)

About the writer: DadGeek (Rob) is the co-founder of GeeksVsGeeks. He is a product of the eighties and never let go of his geek interest and hobbies no matter how often someone told him to stop. His love for gaming and all things geeks has been part of his parenting style and permeates throughout the whole family. A family of Geeks vs Geeks  


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