lil review: To the Moon

  • Platform: PC
  • Developer: Freebird Games
  • Publisher: Freebird Games
  • Release Date: November 1, 2011
  • Price: $9.99
  • Official: To the Moon

“A story worth experiencing”

I have wanted to play this small indie title from Freebird Games since it came out at the end of 2011, but for whatever reason I never got around to actually playing it. Whenever I would be reminded of the game I would have no extra cash, then when I did, I would forget it for the hot new release. I did however, have a large piece of the game with me at all times over the past year; the soundtrack. To the Moon’s soundtrack made it on my list of “10 Gaming Soundtracks Worth A Listen” and for good reason. To the Moon’s soundtrack is absolutely beautiful, and during some very trying times in my life I had listened to it over and over again. Why do I tell you this? Well because To the Moon is an interesting little game, a game that tells a very somber tale, a game that tries to do something a little different, and a game that will more than likely be very divisive among gamers. I enjoyed it, but my experience with the game is also heavily reliant upon my experience with that soundtrack.

To the Moon is less a videogame and more an interactive novel. The gameplay primarily revolves around reading text and clicking on parts of the environment. It is all about story with this one, and the story, despite some fumbles in dialogue, is overall very well done. The story is heavily influenced by the (amazing) film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the equally incredible Inception. Sigmund Corp is a company that helps people who are passing on achieve some of their lifelong goals before they die. They do this by going into the patients mind and altering their memories, by doing this they manipulate the patient into achieving their desire, all within their own head. The player controls two Sigmund Corp employees, Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts, as they attempt to give a dying old man his last wish, to go to the moon.

On this job the patient, Johnny Wyles, doesn’t know why he wants to go to the moon, only that he does. It is up to Eva and Neil to traverse his mind and help put the pieces together that would lead him to his goal, all while reliving Johns life. The crux of the story that Eva and Neil bare witness to revolves around John’s deceased wife River and the difficult relationship that the two went through together. The story (written by Kan Gao, who also directed the title and composed the music) is well put together, with some great highs and utterly depressing lows, but some of the dialogue, particularly in the beginning, is rather shoddy. The character of Neil can be rather trying at times, but as the story goes on he becomes more mature and relateable. This makes it clear that he is purposely written as immature in the beginning chapters, but it can also be perceived by some that Kan’s writing is just childish.

To the Moon was made using RPG Maker, and as such features 16 bit graphics and a style reminiscent of old school RPG’s. With no voice work and little sound the only thing coming out of the players speakers will be the incredible score by Kan Gao and Laura Shigihara. Once again the soundtrack is remarkable, and it is also heavily used to set the mood for the story being told. The music is there to manipulate your heartstrings and to make you feel for the characters, and it works. The story between John and River is incredibly sad, particularly for River. The story in To the Moon is told in reverse, and by the end you will be able to put the pieces together and truly feel sorrow for River.

The reason I said earlier, of my experience with the game being heavily reliant upon the soundtrack, is because I have grown attached to the soundtrack and made it a part of my own life. Through using this soundtrack to get through tough times it has obviously become something rather special to me, and going through this rough tale, with the music constantly bringing it to life…it made the story extra poignant. There were also times earlier on in the story that I could personally relate to. This all helped to make the story of To the Moon extra impactful for me, something that may not happen to you. There were times while playing this game that I just stopped and stared at the screen, trying not to get too worked up; it was all very odd for me, as I usually don’t get that emotional towards anything except animal abuse.

These feelings made To the Moon a strange beast, on the one hand, its not much of a game, but as it is, its still good. The game does have tedious “puzzles” that absolutely do not need to be included and only serve to waste your time and test your patience, it obviously manipulates your feelings with its music, and at times it can come off as pretentious; but despite these things, the game still “worked” for me. To the Moon is an experiment that won’t work for everyone, but for me, it did. I was invested in the story enough to see it through, and I think its a story that should be experienced by most gamers. Touching, beautiful, depressing, joyful, and terrifying; those were words I used to describe the soundtrack, and they all fit in describing the game. At only about five hours in length, To the Moon deserves a chance by every gamer interested in more than shooters. -Chuck

lil Rundown

  • + Well written story
  • + Soundtrack is beautiful
  • – Gameplay can be tedious at times
  • – Some dialogue is questionable

Final Score

7.5 / 10

“Good”

3 thoughts on “lil review: To the Moon

  1. I really enjoyed this review! You summed up exactly what I thought and felt about the game, which is one of my favorites. It seems to me that people are quick to accept games with no story — or a really bad one — because games are all about gameplay anyway. But as games increasingly depend on good stories and characters to make people care why they’re playing them, To the Moon is a perfect example of what games can achieve in storytelling, I think. Sort of like, if the reverse is true, then why not have some games that are predominantly story and have minimal gameplay?

    1. Story is one of the most important elements of a game to me. A great story can hold up lackluster gameplay, and elevate the overall experience to much greater heights it wouldn’t have otherwise achieved. The past several years have seen some truly amazing stories being told in gaming, from the Uncharted series to Mass Effect to Enslaved and of course the new king (imo) Telltales Walking Dead. The future looks really bright for videogames to finally match up against some of Hollywoods best, and i’m super excited.
      Also, since you enjoyed To the Moon, and are asking why do games need gameplay at all if its telling an awesome story, you might also like these DS games: Hotel Dusk and 999. They are almost quite literally interactive novels and tell some interesting stories, if not exactly great. And if you like 999 a sequel just came out that I REALLY wish I could play as its supposed to be amazing and fix everything about the first, its called Zero Escape. Sorry for the long post, thanks for reading! 😀

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