Let me start off by saying, To The Moon is one of the most touching games I’ve ever played. The emotional experience I had with this game is actually one of the reasons why I decided to start this blog. I haven’t experienced these feels since watching Grave of the Fireflies, or that introduction scene from Up.
The joy of the game comes from discovering answers to the many questions posed throughout the game, so I’ll try my best not to spoil this for you. But if you’re like me and would prefer to jump into a story without knowing any background information, then I recommend that you play the game first before reading this review. This is one game you won’t regret picking up.
This journey starts off with assuming the roles of two scientists, Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts. Eva Rosalene is a reserved, level headed character that serves as a balance to Neil Watts’ rambunctious personality. You follow these two characters in the game and listen to their snarky banter and nerd culture references while they try to complete their mission of fulfilling a dying man’s last wish, to go to the moon. To do this, they must enter the memories of Johnny, the man who hired the doctors, and artificially alter his memories to make it appear to Johnny as if he reached his life’s goal.
The game can be described as an interactive story game, with its design modeled after typical JRPG adventure games (e.g. Final Fantasy, Pokemon, Chrono Trigger) minus the actual combat. Instead the ‘game’ aspect comes from walking around the area and finding items and solving mini-puzzles in order to proceed to the next stage. To be honest, this mechanism took away from the overall experience of the game. I’ve never been a fan of games that incorporated tedious tasks just for the sake of interactivity. But at least the puzzles and item search are not exceedingly difficult or frustrating and progressing the story pretty much makes any of these tasks worth it.
The graphics of this game are really nothing special. However they do an excellent job of creating the atmosphere of certain areas. I played this game without being prefaced, and in the first hour of game play I wasn’t sure if I was playing a horror, sci-fi, or an action RPG game. At times, the pixelated graphics makes it difficult understand what exactly you’re looking at and if you didn’t grow up playing games on Gameboy color, this might be off putting to you. However I believe that the lack of polished graphics was the game designer’s intent. The story of the game focuses on loss and nostalgia, so it is only suiting that the graphics of the game bring about a nostalgic time not only with the game’s characters, but also with the person playing the very game itself. This is exemplified by the vast 90’s pop culture references throughout the game that most millennials are familiar with growing up.
With every great indie game, comes a great soundtrack, and To The Moon does not disappoint. Right off the bat from the starting menu, you are greeted with a Yiruma-esque melody. A simple, beautiful song that follows you throughout the game. The music grows in complexity with the story of the characters it represents. The music, like the story, is something that will stay with with you weeks after finishing the game. One thing I want to point out is that one of the game’s music composers, Laura Shigihara, also composed music for Plants vs Zombies. This fact is something that won’t be relevant to the game’s story, but could be interesting to keep in mind.
I highly, highly recommend this game to everyone, even if you are not a gamer. It’s relatively short, about 3-4 hours of gameplay, so you can bang this out in a couple sittings. I myself, played this entire game in one sitting because I was so drawn to its story. To The Moon is centered around its touching story, but what really makes the game shine is how that story is presented. The reverse-linear progression creates a lingering sense of mystery around the characters that makes you want to keep playing. Knowing how things end puts more meaning on the events that lead to that ending. Items that seems insignificant at first, the lighthouse, the paper rabbits, and that fugly ass stuffed platypus, will evolve into key items that propel the development of the story. What was once a simple job for Eva and Neil, now becomes a special part of their very own lives. I love the fact that you get to follow the game with Eva and Neil, observing Johnny’s not just through them, but with them. By the end of the game you feel as though you have changed just as Neil and Eva have changed. You, along with Eva and Neil, fight for the story, for Johnny, and everyone involved.
If you’ve already played this game and are looking for similar games story-wise, I recommend Life is Strange, The Last of Us (PS4 exclusives) and Valiant Hearts (PS4/PS3, Xbox one/360, Android/iOS, PC/MAC). The second installment of the To The Moon series is called A Bird Story that preludes into the official sequel, Finding Paradise. Finding Paradise is set to launch early 2017. Freebird Games has also released holiday minisodes available for free, I’ll add additional info at the end of this post.
Provided below is a link to purchasing the game, it is also available on Steam. It’ll run you about $10, but the money all goes basically to the sole creator of the game, Kan Gao. He’s an everyday normal guy with a passion for video games and is trying to make a living with what he loves doing, so please support him.
If you would like to experience the game without purchasing or playing yourself, you can view the Let’s Play videos on YouTube from popular streamers like PewDiePie, TheGirlFromAus, and ChristopherOdd. I’ve watched the let’s plays as well, and have thoroughly enjoyed the commentary. It’s kind of like listening to an e-book where the reader inserts their own comments about the story.
All in all, To The Moon will be one of the best 3 hours you’ve invested in. The game’s fleshed out characters, storyline, and strong music outshines its wonky mechanics, tedious gameplay, and pixelated graphics. This is a must play game for those who appreciate a great story.
If you already played the game, please leave a comment with your thoughts. Love it or hate it, I wanna hear what you guys think.
I’d like to end this review by leaving you guys an open question. Can a person step into the same river twice?
Purchase the game(Amazon): http://www.amazon.com/Freebird-Games-the-Moon-Download/dp/B00BTGP1OY
Purchase the game (Steam): http://store.steampowered.com/app/206440/
Sigmund Minisode (1): http://freebirdgames.com/2013/12/31/to-the-moon-holiday-special-releas/
Sigmund Minisode (2): http://freebirdgames.com/2015/02/18/sigmund-minisode-2-released/