In this world of ever evolving games, certain aspects seem to be losing their importance. Graphics have taken a front seat in the theoretical car that is the gaming industry, with elements such as story and music left in the back, sometimes not even in the car. So easy it is to become jaded as a fan of good storytelling. Often gamers are forced to sift through the indie gaming world, hoping to stumble upon a gem in amongst the mess. So great is the feeling when one stumbles upon a completely original title from a previously unfamiliar company. Such is the case with To the Moon. An amazing story and a great soundtrack more than make up for the lack of graphic superiority.
In the world that is the setting for To the Moon, players take control of Dr. Eva Rosaline and Dr. Neil Watts. These doctors have a technology that allows them to step into the memories of their patients, altering them in a way that allows their patients to remember things that never actually happened. If it is the desire of their patients to have accomplished something truly great, then these doctors will alter their memory so that they believe they really did this amazing thing. The downside is that the new memories will clash with the old, ceasing the patient’s ability to properly function. Due to this, the operation is only offered to people who are on their death beds, giving them a final chance to achieve whatever they wished they had while still alive. This particular story takes place with the doctors attempting to fulfill the dreams of a dying elderly man who goes by the name Johnny.
The gameplay aspect is pretty simplistic. Players click a point on the map where they would like the doctor to move, with the cursor changing when specific important items or people are hovered over. The majority of the game takes place in the memories of Johnny, with the doctors slowly taking steps back into his memory to attempt to give him his dream: going to the moon. Each step back brings them closer to finding the root of his desire to achieve this goal, with new clues found at each step back. There is really not much that the character has control over. No battles take place (barring one mock battle that parodies many turn based RPGs), challenging sections to fight your way through. In each memory, players must locate five items of importance and then one key item that will take back to the next point in Johnny’s memory. between each memory is a small puzzle game where the player must flip certain tiles in as few attempts as possible to make a whole picture show. That is the closest the game comes to a challenge at any point, other than one silly section where the player is forced to shoot potted plants at what appear to be zombies.
One of the areas where this game truly shines is in the soundtrack. Composed by game creator Kan Gao, Each song fits perfectly with the atmosphere of the game. Often a rarity in the gaming world as of late, this soundtrack is really quite good. From eerie music during dark confusing scenes to swelling piano songs that touch the heart in ways that should be illegal, players will find themselves drawn that much more into the story by the music.
The strongest element of this game is, without a doubt, the expertly told story. From beginning to end, the player is drawn in and actually feels the need to progress the story to see what happens next. Many parts in the story will have even the thickest skinned gamers wiping at their eyes, while other parts of the story develop the characters of the doctors very well. Neil provides comic relief, while at the same time dealing with deep seeded issues of his own while Rosaline does her best not to get emotionally attached in any way to the patient. So tragic, yet so profound and ultimately wonderful a tale has not been woven in the world of gaming in quite a while.
For the players who are looking for high budget graphics and challenging gameplay, this is not something that will hold their interest. For those among the world of gamers who appreciate a well told story with a good soundtrack, this is most assuredly something to look into. At the small price of $11.95, To the Moon is really something that everyone should give a chance. Most gamers will find that they are not disappointed.
Full disclosure: The author was provided with a free copy of the game for review purposes.