STAFF REVIEW of Moo Lander (Xbox One)

Friday, June 17, 2022.
by Peggy Doyle

Moo Lander Box art A self described ‘aMOOsing MOOtroidvania’, developed and published by The Sixth Hammer, Moo Lander is a 2D, pun filled, action-adventure RPG with hints of Metroidvania in the mix. With its classic hero dialogue, beautiful art style and sassy AI sidekick, Hamilton, I couldn’t get enough of this space escapade and so glad I had the chance to experience it.

You can’t just make a plot like this up (well, I guess technically they did), but you are a pilot with a very generic name, Lander, flying a spaceship and abducting alien cows for their milk. In reality each of us has our own version of what we consider valuable in our daily life and of what we think we need for survival. At the base level of it all though, your survival boils down to food and water. This is the main plot behind Moo Lander. It’s wacky, bizarre and opens up a whole field of creative possibilities.

There are strange creatures, weapons, ship repairs, upgrades and so many cows. As you progress through the game you level up and earn more milk. You will use the milk to pay for your upgrades of weapons and skills. There are 3 main categories of weapons/skills, from attack, defense and stun (non-lethal). In each category you’ll have a variety of choices and thus can tailor them to your preference and gameplay style. One thing I loved about Moo Lander was the ability to change weapons on the fly, even mid fight. This was really important as navigating through certain areas was much easier if you had the right combination of weapons or skills. You can also swap out your ship’s camouflage. These choices also have their own rewards and skills. You earn the new camouflage by completing research in the game. Levelling up happens after each combat experience and it’s fairly easy to accomplish this. There are multiple difficulty settings to choose from as well and your experience can be made more challenging or easier should you desire.

Exploration elements of the game are broken up by relatively simple puzzles and your bovine boss battles, each alien cow is unique looking and has their own attack mechanics. The way you defeat them really doesn’t vary much throughout the game though. Basically, just spam use non-lethal attacks to stun them into submission but the cows fight back various ways to deflect your non-lethal attacks. You must continue to stun and attack, using your environment to help you in your cow rustling. Once defeated, you simply beam them aboard your ship. The cow fights were a bit of a shortcoming of Moo Lander, as some more variety in the fights would have made them more interesting and fun.

You can easily get lost in the exploration, especially the caverns and underground areas. There is no mini map and often you’ll have to backtrack and rely on your memory to help you find your way. Progression normally only gets halted sporadically when you encounter a locked door that you’ll need to solve a puzzle to find the way to open your path again. They are fairly easy and do progressively become more difficult. They are never really overwhelming, even if sometimes you may find yourself frustrated by some of them. What became more frustrating for me was the seemingly endless combat. No matter where you were, there was something trying to kill you. Poisonous plants, skeletal fish, giant worms, spiky plants, all trying to hamper your exploration. Your weapons are sufficient to make quick work of them but being in a constant state of fighting did take its toll on my hands gripping the controller from time to time. Precise aiming seemed to elude me, as the right analog stick was used for aiming but it didn’t feel fluid and quicktime movements weren’t always kind to my reflexes.

Moo Lander is beautiful. It’s colourful hand drawn aesthetic and animation were so enjoyable. The cows you encounter were bizarre and nightmarish and clearly each were designed painstakingly to create something unique. Not only did each cow look different, depending on their skills, they moved and acted different as well. The stages were distinct, each with their own feel, flora and environment. Along with being beautiful, it generally ran well on my Series X. I did encounter a few small glitches too though. Once I was stuck to a wall and unable to move, another time I couldn’t fire any weapons or go to my skills menu to change them. The biggest issue I ran into was at the very end before the main boss, I went through a door and was in an empty space with nothing to do. I solved this by restarting from the last checkpoint and thankfully the level populated properly. The checkpoints are numerous and spread out well throughout the levels so you’ll never have to backtrack too far should you die.

In addition to the stunning art, the music (MOOsic?) was also exceptional. Biomes each felt different with their unique musical backgrounds. Underground scores ranged from fast tempo in fights, to dramatic or eerie in tight confines. When I first hit the open plains in the game, the world turned bright green, opened to the air and a beautiful accompaniment of string instruments and bagpipes started playing. It all came together in a moment that had just enough magic that I stopped for a moment and forgot I was playing a game about abducting alien mutant cows to steal their milk.

Moo Lander’s overall tone, although enjoyable, felt mashed together at times. There was the more serious story about war and the fall of your civilization, along with a warning about messing around with nature, and then there is the sci-fi component about trying to find milk from alien cows to rebuild your civilization (along with many cow related puns).

There is Multiplayer, called Mooltiplayer) in the game, but since it’s strictly couch co-op I didn’t have the chance to try any of it out. I wish it has online multiplayer as it would have been great fun to play with friends. There are 4 modes available to play:

- Cow vs Lander: Players can assume the role of Lander or Cow in PvP
- Landers vs AI Cow: Players team up as Landers against an AI controlled Cow
- Galactic Mooball: A Rocket League style game mode where you can control a Cow or Lander to score points
- Survive the Waves: A horde-mode game where you fight non-cow enemies in waves with other players each controlling their own Landers

Even with the few issues I encountered, Moo Lander is wacky and nonsensical and just about the most ridiculous and best thing I’ve played this year. I couldn’t stop playing it or talking about it. It was a refreshing reminder that not all games have to have a deep story or even take themselves seriously. Sometimes ridiculous and fun is all you need. Moo Lander was, indeed, an aMOOsing adventure through space and I enjoyed my time with it very much. With a relatively short completion time of around 6-8 hours, and its fantastic price point of only $22.99 CAD, you should definitely take off on your own exploratory journey of Moo Lander for yourself.

**Moo Lander was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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