Developer: Freebird Game
Release Date: 11/1/2011
Rating: Everyone 10+
For Fans Of: NASA, Time Traveling, Platypi
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To the Moon is a 2D, 16-bit adventure game that follows two scientists who are fulfilling a dying man’s last wish. They use a strange computer to go into his memories to find the link that will allow him to go to the moon. To the Moon has a heartwarming story with a beautiful sweeping musical score, but lacks any type of real gameplay.
The game is broken up into three acts and during the first two you are walking around John’s memories and having to find five memory links to unlock the shield surrounding time jumping mementos. As you go further into John’s past you find out why he doesn’t know why he wants to go to the moon. There is some memory block and you have to find out what it is and remove it. Finding these memory links only takes a few seconds because you just click on the few items in the small area. Once you remove the shield you play a little puzzle game then on to the next memory. This all just seems like an excuse to add gameplay to an otherwise visual only adventure.
Through act two you get to interact with two different mini-games which are Whac-a-Mole and a zombie shooting section and each is uninspired and pretty lame. The visuals are, like I said, 16-bit and pretty average. There’s nothing special here visual wise, and don’t even expect voice acting. The second best thing about the story is the sweeping musical score. This score is beautiful and one of the best ones I have ever heard. I really wish that this game could have been more, but I understand most indie developers have small budgets.
Overall, To the Moon has a story that will tug at your heartstrings, as well as the music, but the gameplay feels like an excuse to extend the 1-hour story to barely four hours. If the gameplay was a little more engaging I wouldn’t complain about it so much, but as it is, stay for the story and you will be entertained.
Every once in a while there is a game that comes around which totally blows your expectations with a story that will leave you thinking for a long time to come. Well, To The Moon is one of those games. It’s a heartfelt adventure “RPG” (if you can call it that) which will have you crying, laughing, and crying with laughter.
The journey has you playing as two scientists, Dr. Neil Watts and Dr. Eva Rosalene. They are both fully fleshed out characters who each play a certain role in the story, with Dr. Eva Rosalene being a more serious “all work and no play” kind of girl, whereas Dr. Neil Watts usually provides comic humor. However, despite being the protagonists they are not the main focus of the game. The main character is undoubtedly an old dying man named Johnny.
Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene work for a company named Sigmund Corp, who provides services for people on their deathbeds by giving them an opportunity to have their memories adjusted to achieve a dream of theirs. It’s a shame that the question of whether this is morally right or not is not tackled by To The Moon, but the story is so fantastic that this didn’t matter much to me.
Johnny, as the title would suggest, has the dream to go to the moon. However, he is unsure why so Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene have to go through his memories to discover why he wants to go to the moon before making him believe he became an astronaut who went to the moon. Explaining what makes this story so heartwarming and brilliant would require spoiling it, so all I can really say is that you are in for an emotional roller coaster. Throughout the game, you’ll meet numerous other characters from his memories, the most important of which is River. River is Johnny’s currently-deceased wife and has almost as big of a part of him. She’s a unique person, and you’ll grow to understand her and Johnny’s love throughout the game.
The ultimate reveal of why Johnny wants to go to the moon is unf, unfortunately,ché and somewhat disappointing, yet the events that follow the reveal are probably the greatest and most emotional part of the game. Now, I’ve been going on and on about the story so much and haven’t even mentioned the gameplay yet. Well, it really is inconsequential and feels like filler. The gameplay is basically finding 5 objects in a memory and then solving a puzzle before moving on to the next memory. It’s incredibly easy and very underdeveloped. Oddly enough, the tile-flipping puzzles you need to solve between each memory actually are actually an interesting concept and one I could see myself having fun with if there was more time spent on it and if it was in a separate more gameplay-oriented game.
Still, the lack of true gameplay hardly took away from the experience. There are a few callouts to other games in To The Moon, including an out of place yet very funny Plants v.s. Zombies reference, a whack-a-mole minigame, and one point where the game tricks you into thinking it is going to become a traditional RPG.
Accompanying the game is a stunning soundtrack which always fits in with the current memory. While the 16-bit graphics didn’t really take away from the game for me, the lack of animation and poor controls did. I played 3 quarters of the game using the mouse to direct the main characters until the game finally told me that I could’ve used the arrow keys all along. Even then, the characters still seemed unresponsive to the arrow keys at times. And for animation, there are a few awkward moments where it feels like there should be more animations in place. The Mac version is also quite glitchy, as I couldn’t get it to run on Steam and had to download it separately. The game also crashed on me three or four times.
Despite having such few gameplay elements, To The Moon feels like a perfect fit to the gaming medium. The funny parts simply wouldn’t work in a book (and there would be no soundtrack) and the dialogue would sound awkward if it was spoken out loud in a movie.
Sure, the RPG-maker roots in To The Moon are visible, but behind that is a game with meaning and heart. I was hooked on To The Moon for the full four hours that it took me and look forward to whatever Freebird Games does next. I still care about and think back to Johnny, River, Dr. Neil Watts, and Eva Rosalene, all amazingly made characters.