I like Pokémon a bit too much for someone in their early 30s. I mean, I wrote The Escapist’s comprehensive beginner’s guide to Pokémon Scarlet and Violet competitive play, and I’ve played every title obsessively since the original Red and Blue way back in 1998. I’ve also, like many of you, put an immoderate amount of time into Stardew Valley across Steam and on my phone. So, imagine my excitement when I learned of Studio Supersoft’s Moonstone Island – a game that wears its Pokémon and Stardew Valley inspirations on its sleeve, with a little bit of deck-building thrown in for good measure.
Moonstone Island currently has an alpha demo on Steam, which allows you to play through an in-game week. For a game such as this, an in-game week amounts to about an hour of play. I’d have to spend more time with the game to see if all the systems gel together, yet I came away interested in playing more.
As an up-and-coming Alchemist in this world of floating islands, I began my intrepid journey with my father showing me how to harvest and plant seeds – standard stuff if you’ve played a farming sim. Daddy dearest then whipped out a medallion that houses a pocket dimension with three Spirits for me to choose from. I went for the little dinosaur-like Anklyo, an earth-type that has the ability Bad Temper. The ability allowed my Anklyo to gain “Rage” every three turns, which appeared to increase its damage output. Immediately after leaving the little pocket dimension, a little one-eyed Spirit ran over and I was thrust into my first Spirit battle.
Each turn, I drew a handful of cards that allowed my Anklyo to attack. The Bash card, for example, removed my opponent’s armor and stunned it for a turn. Other attacks included earth-type rock throws and standard attacks. Each action, including using an item to heal, takes up an energy point, sometimes more than one, and I had a limit of three. I could immediately see the possibility of depth in this system, but a single in-game week was far too short to get a true sense of it. I battled less than 10 times and managed to tame one other Spirit by feeding it Flax Flowers. I can’t say if Moonstone Island will scratch my monster-battling itch or if this aspect of the game will become background noise to planting seeds and chopping trees.
Once I finished the concise tutorial, my mother and father saw me off on my magical broom, and after flying all night, my little blue-clad character wound up crash-landing on a separate floating island, breaking my broom in the process. Here, I collected my belongings before passing out as it reached 2 a.m. – the time when all farmers can no longer go on, it seems. Luckily, a woman named Ossono found me. I awoke the next day in her inn.
Much like in Stardew Valley, the residents of the little town were full of charm, complete with expressively detailed portraits. I got a sense that each one had personalities and backstories to uncover. In my first conversation with Ossono, I asked her out on a date set for the next day and had the option to flirt with her and give gifts to raise affection. These options extended across all the residents of the town, each with their own affection levels in the menu that, presumably, would reward you with backstory if raised. Although, come the actual time to go on that date with Ossono, I couldn’t figure out how to trigger it, and she was cross with me afterward.
While I can’t say for certain how Pokémon fans will feel, I think Stardew Valley obsessives will have that incessant harvesting and pseudo-social sim itch scratched. I chopped down trees and cut grass to clear a path for my initial tent. Residents in town gave me crafting recipes for a box to place items to sell and a forge to smelt better materials. Smacking some rocks with a hammer revealed a mine with Spirits protecting treasure chests laden with more recipes and ore. Other residents gave me quests that kept my progress running smoothly.
Near the end of my trial period, I crafted a balloon in lieu of my broken broom in order to float on over to other islands. I never made it to one, running out of energy as my little avatar desperately clung to the balloon’s string and awakening back in my tent for another day. However, the Steam description promises more than 100 islands to discover, making it appear much broader than its primary inspiration. I did even find some treasure maps for these unseen islands, and I’m looking forward to exploring them when Moonstone Island launches sometime in the nebulous future.
Until then, I’ll keep myself busy with a Beach Farm in Stardew Valley and finally catch those Legendaries locked behind the shrines in Pokémon Violet.