To The Moon has a pretty interesting concept; watch the trailer, it explains it better than I do.
Basically, you play as two doctors whose job it is to give a dying man an entire new life in his final moments alive. Along with that, you are tasked with helping him achieve his dream within these newly created yet entirely fake memories. It’s basically deathbed therapy, giving the dead a way of dying happy if they were on the way to the grave with a wheelbarrow full of regrets, or had something they needed to achieve but just never could. Here, the man wants to go to the moon – and that’s all you have to work with at the start. He doesn’t know why, just that it’s what he wants.
The story takes you backwards through his life from the present all the way to his very young childhood, through everything from his marriage to his friendships, happy, sad, repressed memories, and everything in between – and then all the way back again. Not only does it cover his life, but through his memories we also become very familiar with another (and what seems to be the fan favorite, myself included) character who is probably the most touching aspect of the entire game. You basically go through his life to try and get the younger him to be motivated to follow his dying wish – and of course try and help him achieve it as well. To do so, you go through trying to find what made him want to go to the moon in the first place – and trying to change whatever it was that kept him from achieving that goal.
The game itself is, surprisingly, only about 3.5~4 hours long (entirely depends on how fast you read though) but feels a lot longer. It’s a situation where you feel attached to the story easily within such a short time – and become so immersed with it that those 3 hours feel like 30. It’s very similar to Planetarian in that aspect, it’s very short yet very impactful, and of course extremely touching.
I don’t really cry over games, and that was yet again the case here. However, it does get really sad at times and people more prone to tears might end up with some. From the start to the finish the game is – at nicest – bittersweet, and at many times it’s just straight up depressing.
It’s worth mentioning even though it’s obvious, that this is an indie game. In the real meaning of the term rather than the current usage. Nowadays an indie game is more of a ‘genre’ than simply meaning a game is developed independently. They typically consist almost entirely of either incredibly hipster shit trying to be artsy fartsy, or more often than not – a game entirely devoted to selling itself on “this is done in a style that purposefully looks old, don’t you think that makes it better?” for kids to feel older and more like “true gamers”, whatever that means.
None of that here! To The Moon is simply a game made by a small group of people (seems to be mostly one guy) made in RPG Maker. Don’t let that comment fool you – it’s actually very good. The music is beautiful and amazingly fitting throughout, the original art scattered in is nice, and the concept and execution is great.
The story is really interesting and also takes the spotlight so the fact it’s not some AAA looking title doesn’t matter…actually, it’s all the “game” is – a story. This is much more like something you’d call a visual novel than a video game. The gameplay consists of walking around, clicking through dialogue, and occasionally doing a very simple “puzzle”. It’s all just a means of getting the writing across through a more interactive medium rather than a simple short story or book. A way to get the story to you while also putting it with music and visuals, so again – much like a visual novel.
Overall, I’d say this is something definitely worth checking out. A friend recommended it and after watching the trailer I got it and played it entirely through nonstop almost right away. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s the best thing ever in terms of plot, writing, or video games – nor anything remotely close to that, but it was an awesome surprise and something totally worth every second I put into it. I do recommend it, definitely. It’s short, (bitter)sweet, and the surprising simplicity behind it’s writing makes it all that more immersive, believable, and something you can connect with easier. It even comes with a few (seemingly) purposefully corny jokes and references that give it nice character as a non-AAA title. Hell, Animorphs is brought up even. Who would have seen that coming? Well, you now that I said it I guess.
It’s also a game that makes you think; what would YOU do in a situation where you could live a whole new life just before dying? What would you try to do in that new life? If you could change your life and achieve your dream at the possible expense of everything you knew and did in your entire life, would it be worth it? Even beyond that, there are more questions dealing with much more simpler concerns, like spending your life with someone suffering from some very real and terrible conditions.
It actually brings up some heavy questions that will linger with you for awhile. The ending just adds to that, making you feel as if you really are in the shoes of these two doctors and feeling both good for giving this man a happy ending and almost terrible about the things you had to do in his memories, the things you couldn’t do because it was only his memory you were changing, and plenty more. You’ll come to realize – without it telling you straight out – the answer to many of the rather extremely depressing thing in the game, and the fact the game leads you there without shoving it in your face at any point makes it’s impact double. Hell, you could go not even realizing a lot of the important things even after finishing it if you don’t spend some time thinking on it. Yet it’s all there and backed up within the game, rather than pure fan speculation to make it seem deeper.
It’s a very touching and beautiful little story that’s worth the time.
Apparently this is only the first of a short series of games that will revolve around these two doctors treating patients, along with dealing with their own building story. I’m definitely looking forward to more. The ending left a lot of speculation and foreshadowing about these two, and I really want to see where it’s going.
You can find the game on Steam for $10. Right now it’s only $5 for the Christmas sale!