Moonstone Island review — A Cozy Card-Battler Island Paradise

Imagine if Stardew Valley and Pokémon had a baby, now add the element of card collection in the mix and you’ve got Moonstone Island. It is a game that combines cozy and comfortable card and creature collecting with owning a plot of land on an island and living out your days as an alchemist in training. All of these elements are concocted together with a retro pixel art style that does an outstanding job of complimenting the game’s genre. I, for one, had been following the game long before it came out and even played the demo until I could not anymore. Now that I have played the full version, I did not expect to sink so many hours into the game given that it was an indie title with pixelated art. However, I was completely blown away by the depth that Moonstone Island has.

As an alchemist in training, you are tasked with exploring lush islands. These islands held their own little personality as they brimmed with color. I enjoyed creating farms and diving into mines with the possibility of running into a brand-new creature or “Spirit”. This is your main goal as you fly around on a broomstick or balloon between islands, collecting spirits and building upon their decks of cards.

Taking inspiration from the likes of Stardew Valley and Pokémon alike, Moonstone Island is more than what the surface-level view shows. It fuses the farm-and-forage loop with deck-building combat. When I tamed spirits and prepared to fight, I automatically assumed the game would inherit the Pokémon battle system and I was wrong. Instead, the spirit creatures I tamed imbued me with magical cards on the battlefield and each of those cards offers unique attacks and buffs. Each card that I used in a fight was made to be built around my spirit creature’s synergy which added a satisfying layer of strategy to monster encounters.

The special card system escaped the battlefield and was attached to the farming system as well. I was very surprised to learn that I would be able to wield my cards over the success rate of my crops. When tending to my crops I needed to craft specific cards which forced me to balance my deck builds with resource management. It can become a bit overwhelming, especially for a new player, however, the wielding of cards is something I had to learn to keep progressing in gameplay.

Another very important aspect of Moonstone Island is the romance that is in the air. Yes, just like Stardew Valley’s romancing system, you can hold conversations with the residents of the island and sooner or later, ask them out on dates. The island brims with potential partners and each possesses their colorful quirks and interesting storylines. And if it’s not romance you are looking for, there is always the chance of just becoming great friends with one of these NPCs. No harm in putting one of them in the friendzone and having someone to return to after a hard day’s work.

With romance comes gift-giving. I always have the hardest time picking and choosing a partner in these sorts of games, let alone finding the perfect gift. It isn’t overwhelming since the romance aspect of Moonstone Island doesn’t feel as fleshed out compared to the rest of the game’s world-building. However, finding the perfect gift, completing tasks, remembering birthdays, and engaging in lightly-sprinkled humor just added to my experience.

The real joy that Moonstone Island presented to me was island exploration and creature collecting. The combat spirit system is the game’s most unique and defining feature in my opinion. Deck-building for each creature made it feel very personal as well as a refreshing twist within the genre. I felt like each encounter was an entirely new puzzle to solve, although, after a few fights, I got the hang of it. The adorable companions were able to be leveled up, and you unlock more special cards for them which added a layer of complexity to their battle strategies. I loved to crash into battle with my next move critically thought out and deciding which card was the best for my turn.

Another addition to the creature collecting system of the game was the Overworld. You can meet the creatures within a little care-center where they reside and can level up. You can only store up to three creatures in this little pocket world, so choose and interchange them wisely as they are the ones helping you progress the storyline by defeating your enemies. Dungeons are sprawled all over the islands as well and are not too difficult to conquer but not too easy to overcome either. Each dungeon has treasure and some hold super strong bosses, so make sure to equip your strongest fighters with their strongest cards. I enjoy trying to explore all the crevices of a dungeon, although this can be dangerous when you have low health or no items to keep you going. Again, rolling into a dungeon prepared is always your best bet.

Moonstone Island of course came with some bugs and blobs. There were times when it did not save for me after sinking in multiple hours. There were also bouts of lag here and there which were easily fixed with a few tweaks. The soundtracks also seem to run out, as the music isn’t too long which makes for a quiet run at times. There are many sorts of soft locks, frame drops, and overall, technical hiccups which marred my experience.

However, I love how responsive the developing team is at Studio SuperSoft. They respond to Twitter posts, Reddit posts, and more. They patch their game and have fixed many of the problems which automatically makes this a very nice experience.

Packed to the brim with things to do, Moonstone Island is a beautiful pixelated, creature-collecting, deck-building, island-exploring, dungeon-crawling masterpiece. It fuses the likes of Stardew Valley and Pokémon, borrowing aspects and building upon them. I love sinking hours into the game. I know what I love about it, however, many factors in the game can make it a bit overwhelming. Given the genre that Moonstone Island encompasses, it is rough to stick to a single direction, especially with such a loose questline and everything other than the main story to do.

I love exploring the islands, temples, and dungeons more than I love the main storyline because it presents your progress in the game instead of a linear playthrough. However, that is a problem sometimes as it can become overwhelming with deck building, interchanging creatures, leveling up creatures, and choosing where to build your base (this one took me hours.) I will say traveling between islands on my big red balloon was quite annoying, but the broomstick allows for seamless traversing of the skies. Crafting furniture and even dabbling in a bit of pixel art was great as well, however, it is just a lot to do. I do not think it is all possible with one playthrough and I do not know if it is worth spending the time to comb out every special activity you can accomplish on Moonstone Island. I would rather focus on creature leveling, island exploration, and base building with my interior design “expertise” as well as the base farming aspect.

Moonstone Island presents an amazing, vibrant, and familiar experience with the charming world. The unique twist of deck-build farming and deck-build battle system is what captured my attention. It is worth getting this game on-the-go when it comes out on the Nintendo Switch in Spring 2024 since, in my opinion, having the privilege to walk around and spend casual hours on this game will have a better chance of keeping it fresh for me than tied down on it for hours on a PC.

Dominique' McClain is an enthusiastic content writer and enjoys all things video games. She's highly obsessed with Lord of the Rings and loves dragons. You can chat with her on Twitter @Dommy_Bomb.



Moonstone Island

Review Guidelines

Moonstone Island's world is a feast for the eyes, offering stunning pixelated visuals reminiscent of the world of Studio Ghibli. It does an amazing job fusing together Stardew Valley aspects with the likes of Pokémon and its new-age retro style compliments the game well. With the art and gameplay comes the unique and strategic deck-building battle system that is arguably the most distinguishing factor of Moonstone Island. Despite the bugs, Moonstone Island is a perfect game for those who enjoy a farm-and-fight adventure with a unique spin on combat!

Dominique' McClain

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