Space Moth DX is a top-down, “bullet hell” style game that looks to take the previously established formula within classics such as DoDonPachi or Batsugun and mix things up a bit by implementing some pleasant gameplay additions and variances.
For those not familiar, arcade style “shoot-em-ups” are games that often task the player with controlling a singular item or person from a top-down perspective. The objective is often to destroy every enemy onscreen while dodging a barrage of projectiles intended to destroy the player’s vehicle or character. Space Moth DX follows this classic blueprint very closely as the player is typically required to rely upon quick reflexes and strategies often formed from trial-and-error in an attempt to effectively maneuver their moth around constantly incoming projectiles.
Space Moth incorporates a very pungent visual style that uses enough vibrant colors to make an 80’s sorority party pale in comparison. In their original form, each enemy and projectile is covered in several bright hues often consisting of purples and pinks with a heavy use of deep black as the primary divergence. It’s certainly a memorable visual style that helps differentiate Space Moth from other games in the genre. On the other hand, matching the decade from which the art design draws inspiration is a positively forgettable soundtrack that heavily emphasizes droning synthesizer beats. The music persists in the background of the presentation and feels as though it never attempts to meaningfully add to the experience within the game.
What has proven to be very meaningful additions are two gameplay implementations that I thoroughly enjoy. The first involves your moth’s hitbox. The hitbox is a very small portion of your moth’s body that rests on the back and is crucial to protect. This means that when enemies or projectiles hit your moth anywhere else (e.g., wings), the moth will not suffer damage. Although a smaller hitbox has been seen in other top-down shooters, the best part of this concept is that the player is instead rewarded points for near misses leading to increased strategy.
The second involves aggravating enemies before destroying them. Your moth’s missile attack does less damage to larger enemies but can eventually enrage them. At this time, the enemy changes visual styles to a beautifully implemented opposing, black color scheme with neon highlights that directly contradicts the overall color palette. The enemy also emits twice as many projectiles until it is eradicated. The benefit to this is that the player receives point bonuses for each neon colored enemy defeated.
The one significant gameplay problem with Space Moth is that almost every enemy often fires projectiles directly at the player. This means navigating between the patterned projectiles quickly leads to being surrounded by projectiles targeted for the player, none of which can be destroyed. This makes the action more spontaneous, but there’s seemingly nothing the player can do at time other than suffer a hit and avoid such a situation next time. While previously mentioned bullet hell games include player oriented projectiles, they often seemed avoidable and/or destructable and maintained more of a pattern for the player to anticipate. Space Moth, on the other hand, seems to always wish to trap the player.
I’m sure there are people who can become exceedingly skillful at Space Moth and a few who are able to complete it flawlessly. At times, I found myself wondering if this is the crowd this game is aimed toward. Unfortunately, it seems the average player will find most levels nearly impossible. This makes the game difficult to recommend, especially as an introduction to the top-down shoot-em-up genre.
Difficulty aside, the innovative components strengthen the game’s mechanics and add depth to the gameplay. They essentially give Space Moth DX a reason to exist. Outside of these two facets, Space Moth is just another top-down shoot-em-up limited in both mechanics and content. There are no power-ups or alternative weapons, only three enemy types (large, small, and boss), and five stages with two modes equivalent to easy (hard) and normal (harder). As a result, the game has little to experience and relies solely on what is presented upfront. This doesn’t make it a poor package, but limits replayability and variety.
Space Moth DX finds a way to add its own great additions to a genre that doesn’t often see a lot of innovation yet, at the same time, also strips away some of the pleasant additions from previous entries. It’s a bit of disappointment to see some real promise only to have that erased due to a lack of content and gameplay that seems a bit unbalanced. I found myself intrigued at times but at odds with the grievances I had throughout my experience. Fortunately, there’s enough novelty to keep me interested in what 1CC Games may develop next.
One step forward and two steps back
Super Moth DX includes some great, welcomed additions to help distinguish it from the games of which it is inspired. Unfortunately, it also falters in important areas creating unfulfillment.