Wednesday, 24 July 2013

To the Moon

I have this terrible habit of buying games when they're on sale and then never getting around to playing them. So with that in mind, I've decided to start working my way through my Steam collection.
I chose to start with To the Moon. I bought it awhile back and the story seemed really interesting, plus it seemed like it would be a fairly light title that wouldn't take too long to finish. Something easy to get me started.

Let me first say that I went into this game wanting to love it. Its top down with 16 bit (I think) style graphics, along the lines of Pokemon, Zelda and those sorts of classic RPGs, which I really love. The story follows two employees of a company hired to help a dying man realise his dream of going to the moon before he passes away. They do this by linking into his mind and following a trail of memories to his early childhood so they can plant the seed of desire for him to visit the moon and have his subsequent thoughts follow that path to get him there. I really did enjoy the story, but the game was not without problems.

The first thing I noticed was a very cumbersome control setup. You could move with either the arrow keys or with the mouse, but the mouse was preferable as there are objects to interact with and that is most easily done by clicking. However the game has THE worst pathfinding I've ever had to deal with.  I had to click in straight lines, avoiding obstacles and scenery to ensure my sprites didn't get stuck behind a log or a rock. You couldn't just click where you want to go and let them navigate there, nor could you hold your mouse button down and direct them that way. The constant click click clicking drove me bonkers. But I'll freely admit I don't have the greatest amount of patience when it comes to things like that. I think the best set up would have been standard WASD directions and then using the mouse simply to interact with your environment.

In one part you have to ride a horse. You can ride over the
patches of orange and white flowers without a problem,
but the red ones are like impenetrable walls of steel!

Even in the early stages of the game I felt like progress was really slow. There seems to be far too much clicking through dialogue and not enough actual playing. At the start of the game your characters crash their car near the location they're heading toward. They get out and walk to the house, then its more click click clicking to get through seemingly endless dialogue. Not only is there the somewhat necessary conversation that explains the background of the story, but there's a lot of pointless banter between the two playable characters. We get it, you don't get along!

Another issue I have with the game play is that it really seems to be something that not much thought was given to. "We have a great story, beautiful soundtrack and really pretty scenery, oh I suppose we should probably give the players something to do too!" The idea is that in each memory there are 5 memory links and a memento that you need to find and click on in order to travel back to a previous memory. The memento is like a portal to a memory further back in his life and the other 5 memory links are required to break the barrier surrounding the memento. Once you've found all the links, you need to solve a little puzzle to reveal the picture of the memento, flipping the tiles over in rows and columns until all of them face the right way. The inclusion of the puzzle just feels a bit contrived, like it was crammed in just to have something else to do. It doesn't really fit in with the plot or the rest of the game play.

"preparing the memento"

I've mentioned the soundtrack, I really did like it, especially 'River's Song/ To the Moon" which played several times throughout. The music is relaxing and pretty, it fits well with the environment which is also really beautiful. I really did want to love this game! The story really is great, it was happy, it was sad, it was lovely. But at the end of the day, I feel like that's what the game should have been, a story. It didn't feel like there was any genuine game play, it was just incessant clicking when prompted to get the story done. I'm definitely glad I finished the game, because for me it was all about the story and I'm glad I got to see it told, but on an actual game level, To the Moon just didn't work for me.

A few screen shots

And after the credits are done rolling...

Do I smell a sequel?

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