A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
There are underlying messages of compassion and redemption as Moonrider empathizes with the people who are victims of an oppressive, cruel regime. Ultimately, though, war and violence are positioned as the only answers to this society's issues.
Positive Role Models
Moonrider's goal of freeing people from tyranny is admirable, but the game is so violent that it's hard to call Moonrider a "role model." The other characters are one-note villains content with keeping their power by any means necessary.
Some people of color are seen in the brief cutscenes that show up every so often. Otherwise, there are very few diverse characters in a cast mostly featuring faceless robots.
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Ease of Play
The combat is simplistic and easy enough to understand – and maneuvering around a level can be immensely satisfying once you find a rhythm. But enemies can be ruthless, and they can sometimes shoot you in positions where there's not much you can do in retaliation. In that case, the game can be frustrating without additional methods of attack.
Violence & Scariness
Despite the game's retro-styled graphics, there's quite a bit of blood and violence. Moonrider can decapitate his enemies, as well as chop them in half and cut off their limbs. While it stops short of showcasing gore, there are many kills where blood will gush out in streams from some of your foes after they're defeated.
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The profanity may be rare, but "s—t" is used on a few occasions, as is "hell."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is a downloadable single-player retro-inspired action game currently available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and Windows-based PCs. As the robotic menace known as Moonrider, players will cut their way through other Guardians in order to save society from the ruling authoritarian powers. To meet that goal, Moonrider will use his trusty sword to cleave his foes in half, chop off their limbs, or even decapitate them. This game is extremely bloody and violent, showing streams of blood shooting out of some enemies once they're defeated – though the retro-inspired graphics make this a slightly less intense spectacle. As none of the characters are fleshed out enough to truly understand them, role models and positive messages are few and far between. There's also occasional profanity in the form of "hell" and "s—t" that are rare, but still come up from time to time. The combat is simple and level traversal can be rewarding once you get your bearings, but enemies can stop your momentum flat by bombarding you with gunfire that you sometimes have no way of dodging or avoiding.
Is It Any Good?
Though it has some notable issues, this game's fun enough to almost get away with its shortcomings. Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is a clear homage to Mega Man and other 16-bit games of the SNES generation. There are eight different levels, each with various gimmicks and environments that make each one stand out from the rest. For those familiar with Mega Man and its mechanics, you'll recognize that feeling of reaching the end of a challenging level and facing a boss – one that serves as the ultimate test to see if you understood the nuances of what came before or not. After beating them, you gain one of their abilities, which can help players out in case they were bested by the other levels and need something of an equalizer for their troubles. It's also rewarding to accidentally come across a power module, which are perks you can equip to make Moonrider stronger – or increase your mobility. But the game still has obstacles that bring it down quite a bit.
For one, the difficulty. While it should have a steep difficulty curve like the games that inspired it, there are many instances where Moonrider is "unfair." Enemies will shoot you from many different directions, and while Moonrider has some moves hidden up his mechanical sleeve, a dedicated dodge button would've made the constant barrage of enemy fire more satisfying to deal with. There are also times when the game feels unpolished, such as misspellings in the text-based dialogue and the pacing of the story. The game introduces characters and tries to wrap up their stories the next time you see them, pushing the illusion of interesting character development without doing any legwork to get players interested. Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider falls short of greatness by a few notches, but for those yearning for a game that can be beaten in about two hours – and mastered with an investment of many more – with a trip down memory lane containing loads of visual style to spare, this will certainly be right up your alley.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.