Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight Review

Moonstone A Hard Days Knight amiga box art

Travel the lands and explore monster lairs in a sacred quest for ultimate power.

Story

The season of the Moonstones has come. All the brave warriors and knights from around the land set out on the sacred quest to retrieve the lost Moonstones. According to druidic lore Danu, the spirit of the moon will bestow the ultimate power to the one knight who can prove himself by bringing the Moonstones to The Valley of Gods. Treasure and fame awaits, but the lands are filled with capable warriors, monsters and other hazards. Who will pass this most daunting rite and prove himself as the greatest knight?

The Game

Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight is in many ways a unique game. You play as a knight searching for the sacred Moonstones, and the game is based around an overview map of the kingdom where you take turns with either other players or computer opponents to move around your hero, much like a board game. Around the map you will find lairs and other places of interest that you can visit, and each lair represents a battle that you must be victorious in before you can loot its treasure. The battles are played in real time and they’re both unforgiving and gory – you’ll be able to chop foes right in two and even decapitate enemies as a finishing blow.

Moonstone A Hard Days Knight3Controls

The controls can seem a little stiff before you have them figured out properly. There’s a certain rhythm that you need to maintain when swinging your sword and there are a few different swings that you can perform. Holding the fire button and pushing in various directions will execute different attacks, but they vary in accuracy and speed. You will need to find which attacks works best against which foes – this is something you need to learn the hard way.
The battles can be exploited pretty easily because the AI is predictable once you have learned their movement and attack patterns.

Content

The game has two game modes. There’s a practice mode in which you can practice moves together with another player – this is basically a single one-on-one fight. Other than this there’s one single option to turn gore on or off. If you play with gore turned off, the game will not display decapitations and other messy visuals.

When you start a new game of Moonstone, your hero is relatively weak. You have a standard sword and a padded armor and some throwing knives. The game starts you off with five lives and you must gear up to survive the greater challenges in the game, and to do that you need to loot lairs. The treasures you will be able to find include weapons, armors, magic items and gold. The Moonstones are also randomly found in these treasures and since your quest is to bring the Moonstones together, you will basically need to search as many lairs as possible.

Moonstone A Hard Days Knight8

Playing dice in the local tavern… and enjoying the music!

The game can be played with up to four players taking turns moving their knight around the map. When it’s your turn to move, you get to move a certain distance on the world map. When you reach a lair or city, you can enter it by pressing fire. Walking through difficult terrain such as swamps and forests will slow you down, so you need to take this into consideration as well. You will be competing with the other knights to find the Moonstones and sooner or later you will have to face each other in battle. If you play a multiplayer game, this will of course require you to have two joysticks plugged into your system.

When you defeat another knight, you will be able to loot items or gold from him or her, including the Moonstones. When one knight has all Moonstones in his possession, he will be able to enter the Valley of Gods and thus proceed in his quest, meaning that this basically is an elimination game among the knights before the final challenges takes place.

The other locations that you can visit in the game are The Stonehenge and a mystic named Mythral. These locations hold events that will either give you special bonuses or penalize you with curses. It’s all random and adds another element of risk into the exploration aspect of the game. You may also visit villages, and your home village will restore your lost lives. The cities you can visit will allow you to buy and sell weapons and magic items, gamble in dice games or visit a healer.

As you can see, there’s a lot to do here and each played session has the potential to be very different from the last, which gives the game a healthy replay value.

Moonstone A Hard Days Knight13There are some different monsters that you will encounter during your quest. These include rat-men with halberds, swamp monsters, boars, hairy beasts and even a red dragon! They all have their special moves, some of which are outright deadly and can kill you off with one hit regardless of your current hit points.

For each battle you are awarded experience points that can be used to increase your strength, constitution and endurance. This is a nice feature that allows you to customize your character even though its effects are mostly subtle – at least in its first few steps.

There are some issues in this game that some people may deem game breaking; The constant changing of disks when entering different areas is especially notable when playing in multiplayer and can be tedious. The unforgiving battles that the boss monsters provide are very unfair – they won’t hesitate to kill you with one single attack, regardless of your stats and armor – but even worse is the fact that the last battle will drain all your lives in a single kill. The AI knights aren’t very smart when moving around on the world map – they seem to move about pretty much on random, with the exception when they gang up on you to try to steal your items.

Graphics

The graphics and visual style of the game is very pleasing. It has a rather unique mix of dark atmosphere, comic-style action and classic fantasy monsters and environments. It’s colorful, inspiring and nicely detailed overall. The animations in the battle scenes are a bit jerky, but the blood effects look awesome and adds much excitement to the battles. There are four different environments in which the battles can take place and although the battle scenes look pretty similar, it keeps things fresh.

Sound

Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight also has great sound effects. The battles sound gritty, complete with swinging swooshes, painful roars and bloody screams. The blood makes a distinct sound as well, and it sounds messy – in a guilty pleasure way. Also, the sound of a rat-man cut in two dropping to the ground will probably stick in your head for a long, long time once you hear it.

The music is pretty scarce, but that just fits the atmosphere perfectly. The soundtrack include mystic druidic chants, enchanting tunes and jolly tavern music, all of which are very great and iconic to the game.

Summary

Many people around the world consider Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight to be one of the best games ever made. Sure enough the game has many elements and mechanics that are enjoyable from start to end. It succeeds well in delivering cool and violent battles set in an equally cool setting and on top of that demands that players make many strategic decisions about their ongoing adventure. This game has become a legendary classic that many players fondly remember and keep coming back, despite its issues.

Developed By: Mindscape
Published By: Mindscape
Version Reviewed: Amiga 500
Genre: Beat ’em Up, RolePlaying
Players: 1-2
Also Available On: PC DOS
Released: 1991

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