To the Moon
is the fourth game by Indie developer Freebird Games
, and the first commercially available title. Designed and directed by head honcho Kan Gao
(who also composed the music and worked on the graphics) To the Moon
is a lightly interactive RPG styled game which posits an engaging sci-fi premise. In an unspecified time, we have developed the technology to enter the mind of a terminally ill patient in order to implant new memories before they die. This company offers people the chance to believe they lived out a different life, so supplant reality with a better fiction.
In order to achieve this, two scientists must venture into the mind of the patient in order to retrieve mementos – clues which can carry them back further and further into the memory of the client to find a way to alter the strands towards their new goal. In the case of this story, the patient Johnny wants nothing more than to visit the Moon and it’s up to our heroes Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts to delve deep and chance his imagined past before time runs out.
It’s a complicated notion, but To the Moon
treats it in an extremely straightforward manner that helps to keep the potentially confusing narrative clear, at least until the final act when things are supposed to become confusing. Suffice to say, Johnny’s life was somewhat peculiar and messing with his memories soon proves problematic for the protagonists who become torn between fulfilling his wishes and retaining some shred of his old life.
With its simple animations, repetitive world graphics and non-existant voice acting, To the Moon
will never be mistaken for a triple A title but Gao
and his small team make good use of the limited available art and keep the mouse controls simple and unobtrusive. The potentially dull presentation is helped dramatically by some genuinely witty and well written dialogue and aided still more by the remarkably emotional score – composed by Gao
and Laura Shigihara
. With similar motifs running throughout the game, branching from the haunting title track, there are moments of To the Moon
that are truly captivating.
These elements – graphics, writing, simple mechanics and the impeccable music all combine to make To the Moon
more than the sum of its parts. The story unravels over around 5 all to brief hours, with the mechanics kept present enough to engage without impeding progress. It feels, for the most part, like an interactive novel – occasionally spiced up with some light puzzle solving, a whack a mole sim and even some action moments late on.
The mood of the game is often sombre, enlivened by the irreverent humour of Dr. Watts and some playful moments – like when the pair try to convince young Johnny that he really, really wants to be an astronaut. The Freebird Games
team even take time to mock their own graphical limitations at times.
The play with memory and time is an interesting enough mechanic, but it’s in the final third that To the Moon
really comes into its own – with the fate of Johnny’s real memory in the balance and our heroes unsure about how to proceed. The last 30-40 minutes of the game ranks among the most heartfelt and touching interactive experiences I’ve ever had, mixing past and present and that wish for the moon together into a symphony of emotional moments which all combine for a stunning final beat.To the Moon
will be dismissed by some for its limited interactivity and still others for its supposedly dated graphics but for those of you increasingly frustrated by the base growl of the subhuman characters in most modern video games, it provides an affective and even emotional counter-point to the appeal of first person slaughter.
To the Moon has just been released in retail packaging but can also be bought directly from Freebird Games
for around a tenner. You really should try it. And head to Freebirdgames.com now
for a free look at their previous titles.