It’s hard to know what the inside of someone’s mind is like but an artist’s job is to communicate this information as clearly as possible. Jeff Minter has been creating games for decades now and anyone who’s played more than a couple titles from Llamasoft’s library has probably formed an idea of what’s in there, but never has it been more distilled than in Moose Life. Deer, giraffe, sheep, and any other hoofed mammal that can be recreated in voxel form? It’s swarming with them. Crazy-fast shooter action? Oh yes! A hyper-pyrotechnic explosion of light, color, and chaotic geometries that look horribly garish in still screens but are pure happy-juice for the eyes in motion? Moose Life starts off strong and goes purely insane by the halfway point. It’s basically how I imagine the inside of Jeff Minter’s head is at all times and now the PC version has a release date so everyone can get a look inside.
Moose Life is a dual-surface shooter where a deer/moose-thingy blasts wave after wave of enemies, jumping between the top and bottom planes at will. Enemies spawn on both surfaces and frequently hop between them, so a large part of staying alive is learning behaviors and how to handle them. The moose has full freedom of movement, left-right and front-back, but there’s no auto-scrolling so any Z-axis travel is purely at the player’s discretion. Sometimes it’s good to stay in place, strafing horizontally to pick off enemies in the distance, and other times moving forward to collect power-up sheepies or retreating to avoid a bullet wave makes more sense. Meanwhile as the levels advance new and stranger powerups appear, enemies come in stronger and stranger forms, and the visual chaos ramps up from “lovely fireworks” to “I didn’t know my eyes could process this much at once”. Like Polybius before it, though, Moose Life is as much about making the player feel good as it is being an arcade challenge, and for the first time a Llamasoft game has an optional Free Ride mode with no lives or scoring for a refreshing dose of pressure-free digital narcotics.
Moose Life is coming to Steam on August 12, with plans for the PS4 version to be announced later. It’s perfectly playable either standard flat-screen or in VR, with the only advantage of the headset being that all the explosions are in full lovely 3D flowing through your head. While there’s no official trailer there is a gameplay video available showing some mid-level play, so give it a look below to see what happens when YouTube’s compression breaks down crying as it attempts to show far more than it was ever designed to process.