Friday, January 27, 2012

'To The Moon' - An Indie Game Review

An old man on his deathbed. An old man morning his wife's death. A man struggling between medical bills and building a dream home for his wife. A man coming to terms with his wife's strange illness. A man married to the woman he loves under the shade of a lighthouse. A teen on his first date at the movies. A teen asking out a strange girl. A boy gazing at the stars with a new friend.

All these men are one and the same.

Freebird Game's latest title 'To The Moon' tells a story of love, life, regret and eventual death. While a story like this is nothing groundbreaking, the amount of effort and heart put into the yarn being spun shows in abundance.

The style of the title is much like an old school 16-bit game

The game takes place in a future not to far ahead of us. In this place a company has developed a special kind of technology, one that allows them to tap into a persons memories and alter them. These changes made to the persons memory make them feel as if they have really lived and experienced the changed moments in their life, which is why the company only does this service to people close to dying. This give's them a final chance to live out their lifelong dreams before they pass.

You play as both Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene, the specialists sent to make the dying John Wyles final wish a reality; he wants to go to the moon.

In reality, 'To The Moon' feels less like a game and more like an interactive movie. You control the two doctors that walk around and piece together John's past, but its a game that you can't really lose. There are some puzzle elements and various objects to find, but it's a game that gets you lost in what story it has to say. This was a game meant to tell a story and it succeeds in that department without a doubt.

One of the many mysteries you discover is that John wants to go to the moon, but he doesn't know why. All he knows is that he want's to go there.

Each scene is memorable and beautiful while you traverse John's memories

Throughout the adventure (which plays out in Acts) you go through various points of John's life and discovers more and more about his past. You learn about his wife who died two years prior to your arrival, and you slowly realize the impact she had on his life as you go further and further back into the recesses of his memories.

Her name is River. River is one of the driving forces to this story, and it links nearly all of his memories together in one way or another. You go through their happiest moments together and also the moments that test both River and John as a couple. Each moment is heartfelt and each memory is lasting, the good times and the bad.

You soon come to John's earliest memories but you find them to be unstable and recessed, as if John was intentionally wanting to forget them for some reason.  That reason is soon discovered and made clear why John would want to lock it away from even himself.

With every scene,there is also beautiful music to go with it

While the story builds upon the life of John and the two people sifting through his memories, the music that accompanies us players in the game is quite a gem. Say what you will about the specifics and production of the music, I found them to be very well made and well directed. Every heart-pounding scene of love or heart-breaking moment of tragedy has wonderful music to accompany them, each of which fit the scenes like a glove. They really drive the message of each act well.

The music was made by the games creator and also Laura Shigihara, who wrote a piece just for the games most depressingly brilliant scene.

Planned as the first episode in a series, 'To The Moon' tells not only a timeless story but does it in a way I've never seen done before. The dialogue is well written, witty and clever. The characters are all believable and fit their parts well. The music was well done and show how much work was put into the production. The story kept me playing and guessing what would happen next up to the final scene.

While the game only lasted me six hours, I feel as if it was six hours more than well spent. The game is $12 (The soundtrack is $5 if your interested) which might seem a little pricey for an indie game, but I think it hits a sweet spot for what it has to offer. The site has a demo that allows you to play for an hour, which should give you a good grasp of how the game plays. After that hour demo I think you will know for sure if this is your kind of game or not.

It's definitely the kind of game for me.


'To The Moon' was made by Freebird Games and can be found here: 
The game costs $11.95 and the soundtrack costs $5, with half of all soundtrack purchases going to charity.


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