Dawn of the final day, 24 hours remain
The moment where everything ties together just about killed me
The hit or miss humor
The RPG battle near the beginning
Allow me to preface this by saying that I am an emotional sucker, at least in regards to games and film. The beginning of Up had me in tears, the ending of Toy Story 3 left me depressed and Nier...well, let's just say it left quite an impression on me for quite some time. To The Moon however, is on a whole different level. It managed to be exceedingly emotional without being cheap about it, creating a very down to earth story in a setting not too far from our own.
The premise is simple: You play as Dr. Eva Rosaline and Dr. Neil Watts whose job is to grant wishes and fulfil dreams. They can rewrite the memories of people on their death beds, giving them the chance to relive their lives, fix past mistakes and die withour regrets. To do so, they must venture deep into a recreation of that person's memories in order to ensure that the idea catches. It's a theme similar to Inception, albeit explored in a much different fashion.
Enter Johnny, the main character of the story. He's lying on his death bed and his condition is worsening, so the doctors quickly set in to fulfill his wish. Johnny wants to go to the moon but he has no clue why. So the tale starts, told from the ending all the way to the beginning as the doctors probe his mind to find out what his past holds and why he wants to head to the moon.
The game itself is told through a 16-bit style reminiscent of Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy. It's played in an overhead fashion using either the keyboard or mouse to navigate through various areas, however unlike the two previous RPGs there is no real gameplay to speak of outside of the occasional throwaway puzzle between areas. There are a couple of points throughout the game that the developer tries to insert more game-y elements into the story (perhaps afraid of not having enough gameplay), most of which fall a bit flat. Especially during a scene near the end of the game. Outside of those sequences you'll be exploring areas; checking out various objects in order to progress to the next. It's also very short, only about four hours long, so if you expect a long romp you'll likely be disappointed. Not only that, but the humor can be rather hit or miss at times. Some sequences had me groaning, while others left me smiling. It can also feel a bit disjointing at times too, considering the juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy causing you to quickly snap out of an emotional experience. After I finished the game though I was partially thankful for those bits.
Despite the lacking amount of game, the things that compose To The Moon are astonishingly detailed. The spritework is crisp and the characters showcase a surprising amount of emotion at times thanks to the animation work. The soundtrack is possibly one of the best I've heard, managing to compliment the themes of the story all the while conveying multiple layers of emotion. Of course there's also the story which I could go on about for days, but it's something that should be experienced first-hand. The overall focus of story vs gameplay ended up working out in To The Moon's favor, although I would prefer it if the developer either further refined the gameplay elements and better integrated them into the story or simply expanded on the exploratory elements.
As one of those rare people that love some of the stories in video games, I can't recommend this enough. While the actual gameplay is lacking (though perhaps I was not affected all that much being a big fan of visual novels and adventure games) the story ties the entire experience together in one great package. By the end of To The Moon
I was bawling the hardest I had in a long time. To say the least, I will probably never look at the moon the same way again. For better or worse.
This game was obtained via Publisher
and played on the PC
hours of play was devoted to the game (completed twice).
There is some implied swearing (amusingly censored out). Not rated by the ESRB.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing
: You may miss a few minor audio cues here and there but the game is entirely voiceless and playable.