Despite the extravagant title, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is about as basic and unassuming as a perfectly scooped dollop of vanilla ice cream resting atop a piece of white bread toast. The completely average games are always the hardest to review. They're the kind of games that are usually met with a shrug and a "meh" before quickly being brushed aside for something more original and memorable. Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight does a lot of things right and doesn't necessarily have any huge glaring flaws; but after I had completed my final run on Insane difficulty and lamented on the eight or so hours I had invested into Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight over the course of three playthroughs, I was left feeling mild pangs of indifference and apathy.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight (I'm abbreviating this as RUM from now on) is actually the fourth installment in an ongoing series that started in 2010. This fact doesn't actually have much bearing on the actual events in Momodora: RUM as the storyline is, at least to my understanding, a prequel to the first Momodora game. Regardless of where it fits into the timeline, the story beats in Momodora: RUM feel like a rough draft. There are a few intriguing characters and threads of plot dangling aimlessly, but when the credits rolled, I was left wondering why they even bothered with a story in the first place. It's also unfortunate that Momodora: RUM neither raises nor lowers the bar with its sound design. The music (apart from one wonderful bass heavy droning piece) is entirely average and forgettable.
Regardless of the shortcomings found in Momodora: RUM's narrative and middling music, the games tight controls and fluid combat system help keep it afloat amidst the storm of "retro indie platformers" we've been inundated with over the last few years. Our lead heroine uses a sacred leaf and a bow as her weapons of choice. The leaf has a standard three hit combo and the bow can either be spammed ad infinitum or charged for a three round burst. The jumping and the dodge rolling feel concise and your standard attack has a certain degree of heft behind it. The bosses are varied enough to keep it interesting and the (oh no, here comes the word) Metroidvania components are integrated decently enough to make backtracking somewhat enjoyable. Even though Momodora: RUM has a lot of gameplay elements that are working in its favor, it feels as though the game is just checking boxes in the "How to make a game" rubric. Apart from the leaf weapon, there's really nothing here that sets it apart from its competition.
Momodora: RUM may not be the most inspired action platformer, but the game has a nicely balanced degree of difficulty. During my first playthrough on the normal difficulty setting, I was a little shocked at how much damage enemies could inflict. Bosses require well timed evades and pattern recognition, but finally nailing the perfect, no damage boss fight after a myriad of failed attempts feels extremely rewarding. Even though I'm not one to test my patience on the highest difficulty a game has to offer, I admit that playing through on Insane mode in Momodora: RUM, where almost everything will murder you in one hit, was an invigorating and engaging experience.
As you can tell from the screenshots, Momodora: RUM dons the pixel art motif. And no, that's not my TV, this game is in a 4:3 display on purpose. The choice to forgo the standard widescreen display for a 4:3 aspect ratio is interesting. However, apart from being a nostalgia gimmick, it doesn't really add much to the game. The pixel art itself is... utilitarian (sorry, I'm running out of synonyms for the word "average") and inoffensive. There are a couple boss designs that stand out, but as with so many other aspects of Momodora:RUM, it lacks personality.
Even though I may have sounded a bit overly critical of Momodora:RUM over the course of this review, there is still a perfectly serviceable game here that will certainly find its audience. If you're the type of person who skips cutscenes and plays games at a decibel only a pigeon could appreciate, then I just might have the game for you. While the actual act of playing the game is a pleasure, it's kind of like building a sandcastle in the middle of a construction site; there's fun to be had, but the circumstances you find yourself in are less than ideal.