Many of the people closer to me understand that I don’t talk much. That’s fine. However, they also understand that I don’t generally open with normal conversations such as “Hi”, “How’s it going”, or “Please don’t touch me there”. Instead, it’ll be a verbal tirade of “OH MY GOD YOU SHOULD TOTALLY DO ‘X’ BECAUSE I REALLY LIKE ‘X’”!
In other words, I’m insufferable when trying to share my experiences with others. I can’t help it. One of my favourite things is to see someone’s reaction to shared experiences.
So this possible new series is to help them out; showing my new-found entertainment experiences in the passive form. These will be pseudo-reviews of the things that interest me, but that the wider public may not have heard of. I don’t want to convince people to read/watch/play something that they’ve already heard about and made a decision on. I know you don’t like Dark Souls, Lost, or Stephen King (for shame).
I want to show you what you don’t know about yet.
So, anyway… you totally should play To The Moon.
To The Moon is a sincere and emotionally draining indie game which was released back in 2011. It tells the tale of Johnny, an elderly man on his death bed. Two scientists arrive, working for a company which allows them to manipulate a person’s memories. Their mission is to implant fake memories in Johnny, thereby granting him his final wish.
Johnny reveals that his one wish above all is to go to the moon. Simple enough. However, he doesn’t know why. The story primarily follows the two scientists (Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts) to manoeuvre their way through his memories far back enough to determine where this desire came from, and to trigger the events that will lead him to dying with the belief that he lived without regrets, and went to the moon.
However, it is not all smooth sailing, as they slowly unravel Johnny’s very personal, touching and often disturbing life. It all seems to centre on his late wife, River, whom had her own troubled past.
Think of it as a cross between Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Memento.
Now, the kind of games that will always grab my attention are those with a solid and emotionally affecting plot. They have to give me a reason to continue playing, and to continue feeling for these characters. Good game mechanics won’t hold me alone. Regarding To The Moon, you don’t need to consider the game mechanics, as they’re practically non-existent. Think of this as more of an interactive story.
It is basically a point-and-click adventure, where you’ll locate certain items called ‘Mementos’ which, once you have collected enough in a certain area, you can travel a little further back in Johnny’s memories. This will present you with a little tile-flip based mini-game, which doesn’t require much thought.
Many of these mementos will also serve to progress and flesh out the story, allowing you to comprehend the situation just that little bit more. Why does River carry that toy platypus everywhere? What do all those origami rabbits mean? Having those answers revealed one by one is very much worth it, especially when you realise just how deep the meanings are for Johnny and River.
Not only does the game itself have a deep plot, but the written dialogue is also fantastic. It needed to be, since there is no spoken dialogue at all. It still works with sarcasm, humour, and wit all sprinkled through believable text which excels in bringing the characters to life.
As you may have gathered from the pictures, it isn’t a graphically intensive game. It is a 16-bit style game with classic ‘sprite’-like people, which was created using a publicly available engine called RPG Maker XP. Unfortunately, this retro style may initially put off those who were never a fan of the early Final Fantasy-era. I’ll admit, I was hesitant at the beginning too, but you do quickly become involved.
Possibly the greatest component of this game is the original soundtrack. I am an absolute sucker for an amazing orchestral/piano soundtrack (thank you Journey for showing me the way), and this ticks all the right boxes. It uses the tracks in the story as well, with the main piece being something that Johnny had written for River (called For River, quite cliché). This gets reworked throughout, but keeps the sweeping undertones. Only took half an hour after I completed the game to get my hands on the soundtrack for myself.
At approximately 3 – 4 hours of game time, it only calls on 2 movie-lengths of your time. And trust me, you will want to reach the emotional conclusion. It is one of those experiences that will stick with you long after you’re done.
Not only does it give you a glimpse at these characters’ lives, but it calls for you to ask the important questions in your own life. What would have things been like if I had made a different choice? Is my life headed in the way I want it? Do I want to go to the moon?
Please, do yourself a favour, and get yourself a copy which can be located at their website (Freebird Games).