The developers weren’t kidding when they said they were inspired by the Gameboy, that’s for sure.
In many ways, Moira is a Gameboy game for the modern generation. It has the retro aesthetic, the simplistic story, child protagonist, and simplistic action-platforming gameplay. There are a few modern touches however, like the ability to choose the game’s color scheme to fit a pattern of popular Gameboy Color games, and even a Virtual Boy filter if you have a grudge against your eyes. There’s also a more advanced control system, as you can quickly cycle between attacks all while jumping, firing your magic beam, and falling down a hole because you didn’t hit jump after all.
Moira is a game about a young wizard named Rubrick who has to find his missing magic teacher: The Great Zapelli! I think that’s his birth name. This quest materializes itself in the form of Zelda but also a bit of Metroid, Mega Man, and Super Mario Bros. for good luck. It’s a platformer, but there’s also combat with both a sword and magic projectiles, and there are also RPG elements like finding new powers and combing existing ones.
Moira feels very much like those old knock-offs you used to play on Gameboy of those very games. You know the ones; the games made by some unknown developer that was based on Final Fantasy but threw in a bunch of other elements from popular games at the time as well. Beyond Oasis on the Genesis springs to mind, and this is pretty much a 2D version of that. Not to say that’s a bad thing.
There’s not a lot more to say about Moira. It follows its more simplistic ancestors extremely well, to the point where you can sum the whole game up in a paragraph. The jumping feels tight, but the combat is chaotic and loose that feels unintended, again something you’d expect to find on Gameboy games, so at least they’re staying consistent.
The main problem with Moira are actually the unchangeable controls. If you have a controller, which you probably should be using for a game like this anyway, you’re fine. But if you choose your keyboard, get ready to fall down several pits and take a few magic beams to the face yourself.
Jumping is not on the spacebar, as you would expect, nor is it on the up arrow key. Instead, it’s on Z, while your attack and magic ability is mapped to X, and changing your ability is C. You can also quickly change your active ability using A and S, and you may be seeing the problem here. The controls are all jumbled together, making it very difficult to get any feeling of precision, even if you know your way around a keyboard. What got me killed more than the enemies was jump being on Z instead of spacebar, but even when I did remember the correct key, it was uncomfortable to then move my finger next door to X to attack midair enemies.
If any one thing needs to be changed during development, it’s the keyboard control scheme.
I come away from my time with Moira with mostly positive thoughts. The combat feels too loose and floaty, but it oozes with charm and nostalgia. On its own merits, it would have been another okay, generic action-platformer back in the day, but if you happened to own a pair of rose-tinted glasses, you might see a whole lot more.