Good news everyone, I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with Binding Of Isaac Em Up, Moonlighter. There’ll be more sweeping, reductive statements later in the article, if you’re still hungry. Moonlighter most recently came out on Switch, which is the platform the game clearly belongs on, however I’ve been playing it on PS4 because I am wildly contrary in my nature. A maverick. A card. An unhinged maniac.
Full disclosure – I was actually given a copy of Moonlighter on PS4, and thought hey might as well give this a spin since it’s one of the few games small enough to fit on my fledgling hard drive, without my having to delete every other game I own.
Honestly Red Dead takes up like a HUNDRED gb of space!?
And when I booted it up on a punt, my intention had been to give it a quick look over, before returning to letting my teams down in Overwatch and Rocket League. But reader, that plan has not gone to, well, plan. I cannot put this charming little roguelike down, and it’s all due to my seemingly innate addiction to yes, you guessed it; capitalism.
You guessed something else, didn’t you.
In Moonlighter, you assume the role of a small boy. So far so good. Its bright and beautiful splash screen is taken from the game’s town area, which is similarly adorned with stunning 8-bit pixel-art and an eye-searing palette of pretty colours. It’s got that sunny disposition that you also get in BotW when the weather’s good, meaning it’s saliently relaxing.
You dutifully leave your little shop ‘Moonlighter’, where you also happen to live, and pop down to your friendly, local dungeonary. Here you can work your way through four procedurally generated cave systems, slicing, dicing, shooting and looting till your heart is either content or has been stabbed.
It’s usually more stabbed than content; real talk
The kicker that’s got me though, is that should you decide you’ve looted enough for one day, you can pay a nominal fee and teleport back to town. Head over to your humble abode, and you can pop the items you’ve collected in the dungeon up for sale. You choose a price for each item before flinging open the doors to an unstoppable horde of insatiable, loot-hungry customers. Or at least one or two will shuffle in around noon.
This sequence lasts for a day in game-time and runs like its own mini-game. During your opening hours you’ll get feedback on your items’ prices in the form of little emoticons emanating from each customer (price it too low and they’ll be so overcome by the sheer prospect of the bargain that they’ll have literal coins for eyes; too high and they’ll look mad) and you can change these throughout the day as you tweak your shelf prices to find the perfect people-pleasing price point.
Oh god why am I enjoying working in a digital shop
For years I worked in retail and I hated both myself and everybody else involved in equal measure. It was a wall-to-wall shitfest and I’m never going back. And yet for some reason, it’s this Find Stuff and then Flog It aspect of Moonlighter which has absolutely got me.
I think it’s probably the loop. The game’s little economy that has you plunder the dungeon for what feels like a more tactile reason. You’ve got to do something with each of the things you find. Rather than just unlocking new gear or automatically becoming currency, your loot matters. A fruitful crawl of the dungeons makes for a fruitful day behind the counter, and there’s something in that little back and forth, in this very simplified form albeit, that appeals to me.
So much does it appeal to me in fact, that I haven’t even bothered moving onto the second area of the game, because I keep filling up my loot bag and hurrying back to my shop to sell it. Like the capitalist pig my character clearly is at heart.
Cleverly disguising ‘not being good at Moonlighter’ as ‘enjoying a different part of the game’ (y)
This extra little layer also adds some strategy to your trips into the depths. Is this going to be a loot run purely to collect as many items as possible and get out of there? Are you on the hunt for something specific? Or are you going to tackle the dungeon’s bosses and try to advance the game? It gives this quaint roguelike a depth I truly wasn’t expecting.
Of course there’s little point in making big fat wads of cash if there’s nothing to do with it. Alongside the usual gluttonous collection of new swords and armour and potions and spells, you can also invest in both your town and your shop. Pouring your hard-earned into the town allows new vendors to set up stalls from whom you can buy new materials, while there’re a host of upgrades for your shop also on offer; from increasing the shelf space, to brightening up the place with an ornate painting of you jamming your sword down the throat of one of those infuriating slimy pink enemies that trap you (probably).
They get me every time 🙁
It also makes for great pick up and play gaming. I don’t often get too long in front of the PS4 at the moment, so to be able to boot up Moonlighter, do a quick scour of the dungeon, sell off all my stuff and quit out in a matter of minutes is kind of a delight. It’s also why it’d be WAY better suited to the Switch, and why I’ll absolutely be picking it up in the near future.
Are there any other games out there that might quench my craving for computerised capitalism? Running a shop in a game must be something that’s been done in the past. Let me know if you’ve had similar or dissimilar experiences with games where you flog your things! More on Respawn soon!