The next time there's a cloudless night, head outside and take a look up. It's beautiful, isn't it? Lots of stars, possibly some planets, maybe even the moon... How amazing would it be to just climb up a tower and reach the moon, and beyond?
Rather coincidentally occurring around the 40th anniversary of when the Apollo 11 voyage landed man on the moon, BonusLevel has launched Moonlights, a construction game of lunar proportions. Each level asks you to reach the light of the moon in the sky, not by a shuttle, but with a tower.
In most cases, each level starts you off with a triangular base of semi-solid rods and nodes. Your goal is to reach the moon by adding more branches to your structure in a fashion not unlike World of Goo. Here, instead of dragging balls of goo, you can simply move your mouse to where you'd like to place a node (white rods will appear if you're close enough), and click to plant it. If you wish to remove nodes (and you eventually will, as later levels require you to recycle your nodes), simply click and drag to form a box around the nodes you wish to remove. Once you've built your tower so that any node touches the moon(s), it must remain there for about five seconds before you've officially cleared the level.
However, a man-made tower to reach the sky isn't without faults. Your tower is affected by both wind and gravity, although in some cases, gravity isn't always pulling you downward. Also, you must work your way around other planets and asteroids that can affect your tower. While green planets are like terra firma and act as the starting point in most levels, they will also cling on to nodes that touch them, and solidify the rods coming from them. On the other hand, purple asteroids will instantly disintegrate nodes that touch them. Light blue planets will solidify a portion of your tower, but also make it impossible to remove nodes by dragging a box over them.
Also available for iPhone and iPod Touch.
Analysis: One benefit to a game like Moonlights is that it gives you a glimpse of a commercial title, but at no cost. Some would argue that this game is practically a "rip-off" of World of Goo, but a better description would be that it's an offshoot of the genre of physics-based tower-building that WoG popularized. So for those who haven't had the chance to purchase WoG yet, Moonlights could be an introductory sampler.
On the other hand, some concerns might be raised over the restrictions on the game if you aren't a member of BonusLevel. Roughly speaking, people who play this game could fall into two categories: People who play to try to get the lowest scores possible on each level (and subsequently are more likely to be BL members), and people who play just to get to the end of a game. If you belong to the former category, you'll most likely get more enjoyment from this game than those who don't (although I would love to be pleasantly surprised). Yes, the usual BL level-saving restrictions apply to non-members, and yes, only members can record high scores, but it might be worth it to consider a membership just to get the full enjoyment out of this game.
In terms of controls, you might have a bit of trouble getting a specific rod/node configuration when you're working in tight spaces (especially if the tower is moving), and if you attempt to drag out a section of the tower to remove by starting too close, it might count it as adding another node. Otherwise, the controls feel natural for a construction game of this type. Moonlights even helps you visualize the underlying physics by coloring over-stressed rods red, showing you where you might want to quickly place some reinforcement.
While the graphics might not consist of much more than colored circles and lines on a star-ridden background, the simplicity works to its advantage. This is, after all, the night sky that we're dealing with here. Factor in the soothing background music (not unlike that of Boomshine) that swells whenever you complete a level, and you're in for a pleasant experience that'll have you drifting among the moon and the stars.