To the Moon by Freebird Games (2011)
To the Moon combines all of the best elements of storytelling to make one of the best indie games I’ve ever played. What makes To the Moon’s story so compelling are the right amounts of mystery and character personalities that react as you dive deeper into the unknown past of Johnny, a dying man whose last wish is to go to the moon.
To fulfill Johnny’s final wish, Dr. Neil Watts and Dr. Eva Rosalene must travel through his memories to alter them in just the right way so that his wish comes true. In order to create this artificial memory, however, they must learn more about their patient which proves difficult as even he himself does not know why he wants to go to the moon. This well constructed mystery surrounding Johnny’s past serves as the pivot to the entire story leaving the player with the continual urge to explore and find answers.
Even though Johnny is the center of attention plot-wise, it is the wonderful chemistry between Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene that makes you forget that this is a game and not a movie. While at first, Dr. Watt’s wise-cracking childish perspective may appear to clash with Dr. Rosalene’s calm and collected manner it is quickly proven that they can work effectively as a team. Their lively back-and-forth banter reveals their unique personalities which makes them very likable characters. You can relate to them easily since they are just as clueless as you are and as they solve more mysteries, you’re right there with them to share in the inspiration.
To add to this uniquely created environment, the soundtrack does wonders to further enhance the emotions of every scene. From sad, to happy, to just plain silly, Kan “Reives” Gao (Director, writer, and composer), accompanied by Laura Shigihara, create a beautifully composed soundtrack that ensures To the Moon’s immersive gameplay.
The game visuals are admittedly quite simple, and sometimes limited, but the amount of detail put into every object in the world makes them just as essential to the game as the story and soundtrack that happen within it. Emotions aren’t shown as clearly as facial expressions but the script and subtle body movements, such as a face-palm, really help the characters express themselves fully.
As much as I praise this game, there are of course some things that could have been improved. The most noticeable being the fluidity of the control system. Every action can be performed with just the mouse but this can lead to some strange pathing issues or hesitation of the character where you have to click repeatedly to move where you want to go. This has no significant negative impact on the gameplay and one solution to this is to play with the arrow keys instead and select items with space-bar; but with most of the game focused on searching for the “mementos” of Johnny’s past the mouse serves as a better seeking instrument.
To the Moon isn’t entirely dialogue and exploration however. When trying to travel through memories via the mementos, you must first solve an easy-to-learn, hard-to-master puzzle game added for the users entertainment. The game keeps score as well as an ideal score to judge yourself with, but has no impact on the game’s outcome letting you challenge yourself for personal satisfaction.
There are many more genius plot points that make To the Moon such a interesting game, but I cannot discuss them for fear of taking away even a shred of the experience for yourselves. Winning several indie game awards and nominated for many others, To the Moon has become a classic game that will leave any player with an unforgettable experience.
You can find more information about To the Moon and a free demo at their Homepage.
A Bird’s Eye View
Music – 9.5/10
Visuals – 7/10
Flow – 7.5/10
Story – 10/10
Final Score – 8.5/10