To The Moon Review
A unique indie game that successfully focuses on storytelling
Among the large number of indie titles that have been published the last couple of years there have been a few special games which provide a genuinely captivating experience. To the Moon is without a doubt one of those cases; created mostly by one person, game designer and composer Kan Gao, the game is the first title to be published by Gao’s indie development team, Freebird Games.
To the Moon has been marketed as an Adventure or RPG, but the truth is that the game is mostly an interactive story similar to the nature of Heavy Rain or Dear Esther, as only a few actions are necessary to be made by the player. In order to fully appreciate the title it is important to understand that the game’s main goal is to tell a story, which is unsurprisingly its strongest point.
As the game begins we are introduced to the two main characters, Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts, who work for Sigmund Corp., and are heading towards the house of their newest client, Johnny Wyles. It is not easy to describe the game’s story without revealing too much; Just imagine that in the near future humanity has developed a new technology allowing one to enter someone’s memories and altering them as they wish making them believe that certain events occurred in a different way or never occurred at all. Sigmund Corp. uses this technology in order to fulfill their clients’ dying wishes, allowing them to achieve things they never did during their lifetime. This time around Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts have the task of fulfilling Johnny Wyles’ final wish to go to the moon.
As they arrive to Johnny’s house he is already in a comatose state and pretty close to death, so our two characters enter his mind and begin their work. Initially we are not given much information about Johnny, and we are left wondering why he would have such a wish. We start visiting Johnny’s memories, looking at his experiences backwards, revealing step by step more information about the man’s life from his elderly years to his childhood. At first when exploring Johnny’s mind we come by objects, names and people that do not make much sense, but as we go further into his past everything comes together. One can see pretty much from the start that besides the seemingly carefree appearance of the game - which is mainly due to its retro graphics – the title deals with a pretty serious subject. Even though such a plot might not be everyone’s cup of tea, To the Moon has a captivating story to tell and it does so brilliantly. Even though backwards storytelling is quite a tricky thing, and often leads to pitfalls, the game is more than successful in wrapping up everything superbly in the end.
To the Moon has been created using the RPG Maker software which makes it look like a role-playing game right out of the SNES era. Nonetheless, the graphics still manage to look quite charming; using a diverse colour palette the creators have produced a large number of different locations; the game never feels repetitive even though we get to visit a few areas more than once. This is mainly due to the small details added to (or removed from) each area making it appear familiar but yet different, depending on which part of Johnny’s memories we are visiting. A very positive point concerning the graphics is that they look perfectly smooth in very high resolutions, which is great considering that many new games using similar graphics look somewhat pixilated and suffer when they run in full screen.