When it comes to first person shooters on the DS, the situation isn't particularly healthy. Sure, Nintendo demonstrated what could be done with Metroid Prime Hunters, but there have been few successful attempts since.
For that reason at least, it's pleasant to be able to reveal that while Moon takes a small step for first person shooters in general, its performance for a first person shooter on a handheld is boosted as if by lower lunar gravity. If not a great leap, it's nevertheless a substantial jump.
Sadly, though, the plot is as hackeyed as ever. Research into the existence of alien life coupled with off-world expansion finds you, Major Edward Kane, heading up the US Extraterrestrial Encounter Organization.
Journeying to Lunar Base Alpha, the US military's outpost on the moon, you're tasked with investigating recent anomalies. Members of the crew have gone missing without any clue as to their whereabouts or what exactly happened.
You begin Moon by arriving in a small lander, learning the basics of movement through exploration of the military installation before heading into action.
The D-pad allows you to move and strafe, while drawing the stylus on the touchscreen adjusts your view. Under the default right-handed option, pressing the L button shoots your currently-equipped weapon.
Contextual actions, such as opening doors, are done by tapping a button situated at the top of the touchscreen.
It's a straightforward scheme, and one that's been forged from the flaws of other first person attempts. Much of the game is controlled via the touchscreen - camera, actions, perusing the map, and weapon selection - which keeps things simple.
Unfettered access to one of the shoulder buttons is a must, nixing any possibility of setting the device down for play. As a result, the issue of ergonomics remains, and holding the DS in this way can be tiring for an extended length of time.
At least the bite-sized missions create perfect stopping points should your digits get tired. Each of the game's dozen and a half missions presents you with a basic objective, usually involving a trek to some beacon or fighting an big bad alien.
While the tasks are always the same, variety comes in the enemies you face - everything from defensive guns and mobile turrets, to wall-hugging robots, mechas and flying bots - and the tools used to dispatch them.
Seven weapons acquired through the course of the game entertain a range of abilities from the unlimited, yet underpowered shots of the super assault rifle to the green-hued quanta rifle to the explosive oxid cannon.
Moon does an excellent job of introducing new weapons and foes at a steady pace, coaxing you to move beyond running and gunning through each encounter.
Enemies are just tough enough to push you to vary your tactics; a quick weapon switch or popping behind a corner for cover are encouraged manoeuvres. Boss battles provide even more incentive to change your strategies, offering harrowing combat that can only be overcome through smart gunplay.
Even more variety is delivered in missions that put you in the driver's seat of LOLA-RR10, a lunar rover. Driving missions pit you against alien drones dotting the lunar landscape.
They're ideal for keeping the gameplay fresh, although these sequences don't play out ideally. The rover is clunky and navigating it through minefields is a chore. A little tune up was needed here.
Similar in terms of a change of mood are the sections that see you using your Remote Access Droid, which lets you access ducts and pipes in the sort of buddy sections we've seen in games like Perfect Dark.
But ratcheting up the plot could have added excitement. Developer Renegade Kid tries hard with crew mini-stories and log entries, but Moon doesn't quite weave a compelling story due to the predictability of the whole affair.
The events in which you play a starring role are interesting, yet never unexpected. There's never a sense of wonder when scouting any of the alien bunkers or ships, for example.
Even boss battles are predictable since most occur at the beacons set for you at the start of a mission.
Moon also hits some trouble as the pre-rendered cinematics are downright blurry, often artifacting on the top screen. It's a minor issue perhaps, but it casts a shadow over otherwise impressive gameplay visuals. These shortcomings are hardly enough to counter the quality of the game's action however.
Considering what's gone before on Nintendo's handheld, this is a highly satisfying and coherent shooter of the sort we thought it unlikely we'd ever see on the DS again.