Saturday 31 December 2011

To The Moon (Game Review)

For those of us old enough to remember the original lineup of Power Rangers (Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Zack and Trini), it is a well-known fact that the golden age of action-adventure RPGs was during the 16-bit era. This is why (till date) I consider the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) to be my favorite game console. Some of the best games in the genre came out on SNES; classics like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Chrono Trigger and Secrets of Mana. But until recently, the only game that has managed to recreate the look and feel of these classics was Eternal Eden by Blossomsoft (an indie game developer). Now, another indie developer has crafted quite possibly the finest throwback to the classics yet.

That developer is Freebird Games, and their game is called To The Moon. But before you hop over to their download page, eager to start customizing characters and leveling up, please be warned that this game contains very little (actual) gameplay. Apart from a slightly-out-of-place shoot-em-up  sequence towards the end, the bulk of your time would be spent exploring the beautiful 16-bit world, looking for mementos. Each memento contains a picture puzzle which must be completed before you can progress. This simplified mechanic allows you to fully enjoy the games true calling card: the story.

To The Moon tells the story of an old man's desire to visit the moon. His name is Johnny, and he lives in a mansion close to a lighthouse by the edge of a cliff (real eccentric fella you see). The problem is Johnny is presently in a coma, dying on his deathbed. But before getting to this state, he had contracted an agency known as the Sigmund Corp. This agency, through the manipulation of a client's memories, is able to create an alternate reality in which the client achieves their ultimate goal in life (in John's case, to travel to the moon), thereby allowing them to experience one last moment of true happiness, before, well, kicking the bucket. It's a unique (though somewhat absurd) premise that sets the stage for one of the most emotional adventures in years.

You assume the roles of Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts, two agents from the Sigmund Corp, and together you must move through John's memories, in reverse order, in search of the catalyst to John's present obsession with the moon. Each memory is linked to an earlier memory through the previously-mentioned mementos, everyday objects that hold some kind of sentimental value to John. The adventure begins with John as a senior citizen, and climaxes with memories from his early childhood, by which time the player is guaranteed to be in or close to tears. Not to risk exposing too much of the plot, but know that "coming to terms with a loved ones medical condition" and "dealing with death in the family" are just two of the powerful themes explored in this game. The mood is further set by a piano score, and a ballad composed and sung by Laura Shigihara (Plants vs. Zombies).

To The Moon is one game that begs to be experienced. So whether you grew up in the 16-bit era or not (or you enjoy playing video games or not), you owe it to yourself to experience this game, if only for the unforgettable storyline.


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