The Moon Sliver is a adventure atmospheric horror game by David Szymanski. “Powered by Unity”, the game features a stark environment and a single vague human figure. Now before you go discounting it for the almost cliché simplicity that comes with many Unity games, it should be said that the setting of the game isn’t actually as lazy as its description may let on. Szymanski seemed to make an effort to construct a rather unnerving, haunted atmosphere for the game and in many ways he was successful. However, the game does show signs of being amateurish and includes some superfluous elements that detract from its world and can potentially throw the player out of the story.
The Moon Sliver is played from a first-person perspective. Stranded on a strange, desolate island you wander around taking in memories. To continue the story, you need to explore the island and examine certain objects to cause a dialogue box to appear. In a lot of ways, The Moon Sliver takes advantage of unknown information to keep the player guessing. Though ultimately a linear game, the story is broken up and scattered about, causing the player to guess not only the order of the lines being given to them but the perspective, with vague and shifting use of pronouns and speech types that leaves you wondering who is recounting the information.
As previously stated, The Moon Sliver has its problems and those problems are largely found in technical elements. Though the approach to storytelling is creative, it’s clear there were some aspects of the gameplay that the developer didn’t consider. For example, because you discover dialogue and it remains on screen as you remain in the area, there is at least one point in the game where dialogue boxes overlap. This more than anything else puts one in mind of the hastily thrown together Unity game: yet another empty horror game with sloppy execution and stock graphics. This is a shame, because though there definitely is a glut of terrible games made with the free versions of Unity, The Moon Sliver for the most part tries to keep its limitations in mind, which is a level of foresight not seen in other amateur indie games.
Another issue that turns up involves the tunnels beneath the island. This space is obviously supposed to feel clausterphobic and creepy. It succeeds in some ways, but one thing in particular can throw you out of it: the long hallways. The hallways seemed to either hit empty dead ends abruptly, or drag on forever. Both made the feeling of being lost less scary and more annoying. By the time you finally find the rooms you’re supposed to, you’re more likely to be just trying to move on than taking in the atmosphere provided by the sound cue (which itself was a little over the top) and the lighting. I suppose this brings up a flaw with the method for revealing the story. At a certain point you do have to discover particular bits of dialogue to move on. When it comes to areas like the tunnels, this feels forced and tedious as you would rather be permitted to genuinely explore everything in your own order. This feeling could likely have been mitigated by a less drawn out tunnel section.
Finally, there are the flashlight and the lock mechanics—a pair of elements that are mostly unnecessary to the game. The flashlight itself is not completely a failure as an element to extend suspense. It’s set up to lose its charge over time, which requires recharging at various outlets around the island. The issue is that recharging is ultimately a useless nuisance, as perhaps the only time your dying flashlight would contribute to the suspense, it’s rendered useless and will not turn on regardless of charge. The locks, two four-button codes, seemed to serve only to extend gameplay. Also if I must be completely honest, if there were supposed to be clues leading to the codes I didn’t notice them because I simply guessed them within a few moments. Either way, solving the codes had very little reward and ultimately seemed like busy work.
This is more of a nitpick, as you do not actually have to do this, but I found the credits sequence to also be difficult to navigate. Like the rest of the game, the credits displayed as you traverse a long cooridor filled with light. However, because it is still a physical corridor that you can’t really see, you can potentially get disoriented. I say this because it happened to me. I wanted to see all the credits and was nearing the end, but somehow I had gotten turned around and wound up going back and forth between the same two credits. Like I said, this isn’t really a criticism of the gameplay, but I do think the credits could’ve been made more straightforward.
I played The Moon Sliver after I played The Music Machine, but The Moon Sliver was in fact released first. This makes a lot of sense because a lot of the sloppy gameplay elements in The Moon Sliver were definitely cleaned up in The Music Machine. However, as I stated in my review of The Music Machine, I feel that its story actually fell apart and was unnerving for all the wrong reasons. This is interesting because I think The Moon Sliver’s strength is its story. Every way The Music Machine explained too much, The Moon Sliver let its story remain vague, which I think is all for the better. I will say, however that I do see a sort of trend in Szymanski’s writing.
While certainly nowhere near the problem it wound up being in The Music Machine, The Moon Sliver definitely has a handful of weird ways it describes women. The Moon Sliver’s female trouble, however, can be chalked up to clunky writing and is easily forgotten, whereas The Music Machine goes down a disturbing rabbit hole that The Moon Sliver never touches. While I do bring this up because I feel there’s a definite pattern in Szymanski’s writing style for women, I actually wanted to highlight that you can go into The Moon Sliver without fear that molestation is going to come up.
In spite of the good things that I do recognize, I still can’t say I fully recommend the game. But if you can overlook some of the hiccups, you’ll likely enjoy The Moon Sliver. My overall opinion of The Moon Sliver is that there is potential, but it falls short of being an exception to the rule in the over-saturated indie horror genre.