Sir Isaac Newton once famously mused that “Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” Luna’s Wandering Stars – a “planetary puzzler” that lets you manipulate the forces of the solar system – certainly adheres to this philosophy, riffing on a few basic ideas that come together as an entertaining whole. Serenity Forge’s celestial puzzler (now available onfor £5.94) lets you bend Newtonian physics to your will by employing one of nine unique mechanics, with each one corresponding to a planet of the solar system.
The ultimate goal is to gain mass with your moon by colliding into asteroids (moving and static) and assimilating them. Three gold asteroids per level must be collected to achieve a perfect score and unlock further planets, with the trick being to avoid the blues asteroids until you’ve accrued the valuable gold ones. The first planet, Mercury, lets you alter the velocity at which you launch your moon into its orbit. Because gaining mass alters momentum, you’ll need to factor that it when calculating the trajectory.
The complexity is gradually ratcheted up, with floating spikes that perforate the moon, boosts that function as expected and asteroid fields that diminish your velocity to a crawl. Just as these systems begin to become second nature, you’re tasked with mastering new mechanics on a different planet. Devised by a team clearly enamoured with the science of inertia, these are more hit than miss and feel intuitive to such an extent that it’d arguably make a great learning tool for jaded students – a notion that’s lent greater credence by the inclusion of a level editor.
The taut concepts range from granting you a finite number of rocket boosts that aid your propulsion, to flipping the tables and placing you in control of the planet’s gravitational pull. Elsewhere, the on-rails Mars levels pay homage to the classic arcade game Asteroids, equipping you with a laser to fend off incoming spikes. It’s testament to the developers’ keen eye for detail that there’s a hidden level of tactical nuance with each mechanic and a constant, yet perfectly pitched, challenge.
Luna’s moreish gameplay is supplemented by a communications log that serves as your cosmic guide. These terse lines of dialogue – which accompany the start of every level and each ill-fated attempt – are well-written and laced with a sardonic edge that never feels forced and will elicit a few wry smiles. The rudimentary presentation might put off a few, yet with so many smaller studios spending the majority of their time perfecting an aesthetic that will attract investment, it’s refreshing to witness Serenity Forge really nail the fundamentals – because that, really, is what will keep us coming back.