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To the Moon Review

If you're searching for a story-oriented, RPG experience with a retro style, look no further than To the Moon! Can you put together the puzzle pieces of the past in order to satisfy the final request of a dying man? Embark on an adventure with beautiful, although pixelated, scenery and an engrossing, underlying plot.

To the Moon Review

Introduction

To the Moon is a story-driven, RPG, adventure game produced and published by indie developer Freebird Games. It was originally released in November of 2011 for PC. Since then it has also been made available on Android and iOS devices. 

Showcasing old-school,16-bit graphics, To the Moon tells the tale of two scientists whose job is to help fulfill the last wish of those on their deathbeds. Follow and play as doctors Neil Watts and Eva Rosalene as they attempt to fulfill their newest client's last wish: to go to the moon.

To the Moon is available for purchase on Steam for $9.99

Story

To the Moon follows two scientists, Neil Watts and Eva Rosalene, who work for an organization called Sigmund Corp. Sigmund Corp. possesses a technology that allows one to both look through someone else's memories and alter those memories to create new ones. Altered memories conflict with existing memories to create a painful cognitive dissonance. Due to this fact, it is only legal to alter the memories of someone who is on their deathbed and has given their consent. This is where Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts come in. 

To the Moon Review. Rosalene and Watts explore one of Johnny's more recent memories.
Rosalene and Watts work with one another at Sigmund Corp. Whenever Sigmund Corp. gets a new client, Rosalene and Watts are one of the teams that is tasked with satisfying the last wish of that client. Many people on their deathbeds believe that they have many regrets and missed opportunities. Sigmund Corp. allows these people to make a wish about how they want their lives to have turned out. Once the wish has been made, one of Sigmund Corp.'s team of scientists traverse the memories of their client, learning who they are and what they've done. They follow these memories back to their client's childhood and by then they'll hopefully have enough information to know what to tell their client's childhood self in order to convince that self to pursue their client's final wish. In doing so, their client's memories will be replaced by the memories they wish they had had. The client passes away believing they had lived their best possible life without any regrets. 

Doctors Rosalene and Watts were on their way to see such a client when Watts accidentally crashed their car in an attempt to avoid hitting a squirrel. Fortunately for them, they crash fairly close to their destination and are able to walk the rest of the way. They make their way to a large and lonely house on the edge of a cliff overlooking a rundown lighthouse. It is here they are introduced to their client and the other residents of the house. Their client is an old man who goes by the name of Johnny Wyles. Johnny's doctor is with him and informs the two scientists that Johnny doesn't have much time. Certainly no more than two days. With this deadline hanging over their heads, Watts and Rosalene get to work trying to fulfill Johnny's last wish: to go to the moon. 

To the Moon Review. Rosalene and Watts prepare their equipment while Johnny's doctor and caretaker watch.
Unfortunately, Johnny can't remember why that's his last or wish or even the purpose of the wish. With their work cut out for them, Watts and Rosalene begin the process of jumping into Johnny's memories. Not only do they have to work their way backwards through his memories to get to his childhood, but they also have to figure out why he wants to go to the moon in the first place. Given that this knowledge will be key to convincing a young Johnny to become an astronaut, Rosalene and Watts must figure it out before they get to his earliest memories. Because they only have two days until Johnny passes away, there isn't enough time to attempt this more than once. Luckily, our two plucky scientists are professionals. Surely they'll figure something out. 

This journey through Johnny's memories, and the story presented by the game as a whole, is beautiful and poignant. It tells a tale of love, a tale of hopes, a tale of dreams. It tells of sadness, of mistakes made and regretted, of the deep ache that accompanies loss. Is contentedness worth it if it's not real? Would you choose to remember things differently at the end if you could? To the Moon tells the story of happiness and what that happiness is worth. 

To the Moon Review. In a just world, this moment would last forever.

Gameplay

Gameplay is about as simple as it gets. Each one of Johnny's memories can be viewed as a level. Every level requires the same goal to be reached in order to move on to the next one. Each level contains five memories and one memento. Once you've collected all five memories, they can be used to unlock the memento. When the memento is unlocked, it can be used to traverse backwards through Johnny's memories to a previous memory that contains the same object that was used as a memento. Finding Johnny's memories and mementos allows one to put together an idea of Johnny's history and desires while also navigating Johnny's memories as far back as possible. 

To the Moon Review. This stuffed animal is practically leaking memories.
Every memory tells a story and every story brings the player one step closer to putting together Johnny's past and figuring out why he wants to go to the moon and how to get him there. Activating a memento is the only part of the game that isn't just linear storytelling. It requires solving a small puzzle that is rarely difficult and doesn't take much time. Not that there's anything wrong with linear storytelling. When done right, as is the case with this game, it can be a very effective way to impart a story. Even though the game requires one to follow a straightforward plot with no means to deviate, it doesn't ever feel like you're being hemmed in. The desire to see how the plot unfolds is enough of a distraction. 

The controls, like everything else, are very simple. The computer mouse and arrow keys are all that is necessary to play this game. There's also no pressure to become adept at the game's controls. There's no combat nor are there any timed challenges, allowing any player to play the game at whatever pace they choose. 

There's also no need to worry about wasting too much time playing. To the Moon contains only three or four hours of gameplay. It can be thought of in terms of a short book or a long movie. 

Graphics and Audio

The graphics are 16-bit, a style often associated with early 90s gaming. Although going with this type of graphical design is generally a risk, it perfectly fits the mood and atmosphere of the game. To the Moon isn't offering a sprawling, fantasy adventure; it's a simple story for which simple graphics were all that was necessary. In the end, it's that very simplicity that succeeds in truly impressing upon one the emotional impact of To the Moon. It allows one to focus not on how the game looks, but on how it feels. 

To the Moon Review. My god, it's full of stars.

The soundtrack of To the Moon might be its most impressive feature. Every scene and moment is accompanied by beautiful, and often haunting, original music. Every twist and every change is as much heard as it is seen. From serious to lighthearted to sad, the music goes above and beyond in enhancing one's gaming experience. All of the music centers around one specific track, a piano solo titled "For River" that does just as good a job at telling the story as the dialogue does. The soundtrack alone makes To the Moon a game worth playing. 

Conclusion

Every aspect of To the Moon culminates in a game that is more than worth the ten dollar asking price. The story and characters are well written and well conceived. It's difficult not to care about most of the people with whom you interact and it's all but impossible not to care about how the story turns out. Both the graphics and the audio serve to augment and complete the already compelling plot, and the ease with which anyone can play makes it a worthwhile experience.

The story might perhaps be a bit too mature for a younger audience, but anyone in their teens and onward should enjoy and relish this work of art. If the purpose of this game was to tug on my heart-strings, then the creators can consider their mission accomplished.

Although I don't believe that it's long enough or detailed enough to earn a perfect score, there's no question that To the Moon is an excellent game. If you're interested a story-driven experience and you've got an afternoon or an evening free, then you're doing yourself a disservice by not playing.

PROSCONS
+ Superb story– A little on the short side
+ Incredible soundtrack
+ Gameplay is simple and easy to understand
8.5
Great

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