TO THE MOON
Start Date: January 27, 2016
End Date: January 27, 2016
In the world of To the Moon, technology exists which allows specialists to enter – and potentially alter – the memories of a patient. You play as two scientists working for a company that uses this procedure to grant terminally ill clients a chance to achieve their greatest wish – to implant into their memories something they always strived for but never achieved. In this case, your client is a dying old man named John, whose greatest wish was to travel to the moon. Before you can grant this wish, you must travel to various points in John’s life (via his memories), to piece together why this lunar voyage was so important to him.
Movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Inception were clearly inspirations for this story, but To the Moon forges its own path. And, as you might imagine, it’s a super emotional path which explores John’s lifelong partnership with his beloved wife, his tumultuous early childhood, and the final years that led up to his death. I’m not going to spoil anything, except to say that this story will choke you up to a fucking Pixar degree.
The gameplay definitely plays second fiddle to the narrative in To the Moon. Though the game looks like a classic SNES RPG, it plays more like an adventure game. Essentially, you’re traveling backwards through this man’s life searching for artifacts that can connect with earlier memories, so that you can travel back even further. The backwards chronology is a neat narrative device, which sort of allows you to “unlock” context as you progress through the game. You might find an object during John’s adulthood that suggests a certain meaning, only to encounter it again during his childhood and realize its significance is entirely different from what you imagined.
If I have one complaint about the game, it’s the moments when the developer attempts to shoehorn in more traditional video game elements. In between every chapter, for example, you are forced to solve a dopey little tile-shifting puzzle.
Luckily, these puzzles are never remotely difficult, but they seem really out-of-place and shoehorned in just to make the experience feel a bit more “game-like.” The same can be said for a bizarre action/shooting segment near the end, which does tie into the narrative cohesively, but also feels completely unnecessary. None of these things are a huge deal, but I do think the game would have been slightly better without them.
That’s really all I am gonna say about this, because I don’t want to ruin the experience for you. If you’re looking for a complex, heart-wrenching story with beautiful visuals and memorable characters, do not miss To the Moon. It’s available on Steam and happens to be on sale right now for a measly $2 (through February 12). It’s a total fucking steal at that price – and even if you miss the sale, the game is well worth its regular price of $10. There are also two free “minisodes” available as DLC, which seem to be setting the stage for the sequel that is due out this year. I can’t wait!
All the Way Down