It’s finally happened! Alex has gained access to Adam and Tigs’ fortress of solitude and man does it smell funky in here. Now without further ado here is my Shortwave premiere, a review of To The Moon for PC! Thanks Adam and Tigs.
If you saw me when I was done playing To The Moon from Freebird Games I would have claimed I was cutting an onion or I just stubbed my toe while thinking of the end of Old Yeller. OK maybe it isn’t all waterworks but it is refreshing how the PC indie devs can find ways besides detached action or flashy graphics to pull one in to a game and this is a gem of an example of that.
Again the term “game” still has to be used lightly. What designer / composer Ken Gao did was create a tableau for the story and all the weepy feelings associated. The elements that can be construed as gameplay for most of the experience are point and click pixel hunt style for the exploration with very few puzzle elements.
But it comes down to the story and that’s what matters. You follow two employees of the quasi futuristic Sigmund Corp Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts. One is uptight the other is a video game referencing slacker! Uh oh! OK that premise could be a terrible ABC sitcom but in reality together they do a mix of reverse Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with a twist of Eternal Sonata. In layman’s terms they take someone who is dying and make their last wish come true at least virtually in someone’s noggin. So these virtual make a wishers journey into the head of a dying man named Johnny to fulfill his dying dream to (ready for it?) go To the Moon! Over the rest of the 4 – 5 hour long journey you have to figure out why and how that’s going to happen. Working backwards through his life you piece together the puzzle and what comes is something I found truly unique.
The art and music really help tie the package together. It’s presented similar to that of a mid 90s pixilated RPG with drawn scenes used occasionally for some key plot moments. They all look great and while there is no voice acting it would probably feel out of place with the retro look. Music plays a big part throughout the story with reoccurring piano pieces punctuating scenes. I found myself revisiting the soundtrack over the following days and meditating on those particular moments in the game. They are very pretty and from my untrained eye well composed for the situations to bring us in the sadness party.
Not everything is perfect. What puzzles do exist are not challenging, really at all. This way there is no barrier between you and the story but I think having more of a feeling of agency in what happens or making things happen could have made it even more rewarding. An element of choice besides what character you control in specific sections could have been a possible route to take but again this was their story to tell and that’s what they did, with little other frills.
If you are looking to go into a game and have guns blazing this won’t be the right experience for you. To The Moon resides somewhere special for me though. Sure it ends up little more than a pixilated movie. But it’s a good one. It has the rare ability to care about the characters and want to accompany them on the journey. Just pack a hankie.
Buy To The Moon direct from Freebird Games!