When it comes to really trippy videogames which use retro visuals to assault your eyeballs British developer Llamasoft is in a league of its own. Helmed by Jeff ‘Yak’ Minter and Ivan ‘Giles’ Zorzin, past titles include Polybius, Tempest 2000 and TxK and their latest venture takes that classic arcade element and somehow cranks it up another notch. Called Moose Life, if you love brain-melting (yet weirdly hypnotic) shooters then get ready to hold on tight.
It’s very rare (make that never) that you find a developer describe their videogame as something designed to ‘take you to a happy, tranced-out pleasure zone full of deer and mushrooms’ but that’s exactly what Moose Life is all about, kind of. You’ll also want to add in sheep, luminous pills of varying colours and an eclectic trance soundtrack to nicely compliment the gameplay.
Straight away Moose Life is a visual feast of ‘80s blocky graphics and primary colours with text that isn’t instantly discernible until your eyes adjust to what’s going on. There aren’t any menus as such, just a selection of slightly discernable pages with leader boards and the option to switch through a bunch of tunes before delving into the abyss. It’s well worth having a mooch through the music selection as there are some great tracks if you’re into electronic music.
Initially, you might not get that far as most of the controller buttons instantly launch the game and you’re away before realising what the hell is going on which was quite fun. You control a deer – nope not a moose – down a linear track filled with little voxel enemies which explode with colour when shot. But this is no endless runner, your speed isn’t fixed so you can advance and reverse as much as you like to pick off a wayward enemy or collect a powerup pill. This mechanic means that you have control over how fast and hectic you want each run to be, take your time and be methodical or just push forward and blitz the sucker.
The latter is where the gameplay really gets exciting and insane. What you’re trying to do is protect your lives and get a high score but in reality, half the time is spent trying to work out where the hell the deer has gone. Enemies come in from two planes which you can jump between (turning upside down) whilst the powerup pills unlock all sorts of bonuses, from improving your projectiles to turning hostiles into psychedelic deer. As the levels progress and everything ramps up a gear there’s just so much going on that you’re sucked into a seemingly never-ending vortex of pixel explosions.
It’s quite the experience and without VR wouldn’t have the same impact. You can play Moose Life without a VR headset but you’d be missing out. Just like Tetris Effect, they’re not necessarily ‘wow’ factor examples of what VR is capable of as you are simply sat down looking in the same direction all the time. However, in VR Moose Life feels far more like a rollercoaster ride, you get to the end and want to start again and again.
The setup also means the videogame is comfortable to play. Entirely seated, you’ll need a gamepad to play Moose Life – one Oculus Rift controller did work but there was no way to jump or switch menu screens – as no motion controllers are properly supported. There’s even a Free Ride mode where you don’t need to worry about lives, so just sit back and relax and soak in the joyous lunacy of it all.
Moose Life is quite clearly one of those indie titles which has been made for the love of videogames. Cheap and cheerful, it’s like a playful puppy which just wants to have some fun because life doesn’t always need to be serious. There might not be a lot of depth to the experience or options but for those looking for a quick injection of easy retro gaming, Llamasoft has got your back.