I’m beginning to think that I have some sort of mild ADD, because while I’m still super excited to have a new Zelda, I keep not playing it in favour of other games. Last Friday, the other game in question was To the Moon.
I’ve been following this one since early this year, waiting anxiously for it to be released. When it was finally available for public consumption, I (in a very odd twist) did not purchase it right away. It wasn’t until I read a review of how intensely emotional it was that I sped home after work to buy and play it.
Given the opportunity, I would have sat there and gunned through it from start to finish, but alas, life got in the way around the two-hour mark. I went back to it as soon as possible, and after a total of three and a half hours of text boxes and tile puzzles, I finally got to the end. Yeah, it’s short, but that’s okay. It’s really just an interactive story, after all.
And that is why it was so important for me to hear that it had a strong emotional weight. From the trailers and pre-release writing about the game, it was pretty obvious that there wasn’t a lot of “game” to be had. Indeed, someone could very well turn To the Moon into a movie. It could have just as easily been a novel. But I think it’s important that it was a game. Or, that it was interactive, anyway. I don’t think a movie version would flow as nicely, and a novel would obviously lack the superb soundtrack that accompanies the game. Besides, it would take way more than three and a half hours to read a novel. You won’t want to put this one down once you’re in it.
To be fair (and thorough), I’ll admit that what little gameplay there is can be rough around the edges. Most of the levels consist of watching some drama play out, poking about the environment for “keys,” then solving a puzzle to move on. After Act 1, the keys are less often random environmental objects and will usually come along with some story bits, which makes finding them considerably less tedious. Also, the horse level is super annoying, and there’s a weird action level near the end that has no business being there. But those little issues are besides the point, and I bet they’re probably just there because someone felt like it needed to be just a little more gamey.
The game is about two doctors (Eva Rosalene and Neil Watts) who travel into the memories of a dying man (Johnny) to help grant him his dying wish. That wish is to go to the moon, and they do it by rejiggering his memories so he will believe it actually happened. The game is divided into small “levels,” each representing an important memory to Johnny. In each memory, you will very slowly uncover new clues about Johnny’s tragic life. I wish I could say more than that, but I would feel awful in spoiling any of it. All I can say is that it breaks the heart.
To the Moon packs an intense emotional wallop, and a lesser man would have been brought to tears at no less than half a dozen points in the story, especially if he were able to relate to the goings-on. The major themes of the game are love, death, and coping with disabilities. If that isn’t a recipe for a sob-fest, I don’t know what is. Maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age. Maybe it’s because I can kind of relate to Johnny’s plight. The point is that I was touched by this story.
I have no reservations in saying that To the Moon has the best video game story that I’ve seen to date. We talk about video games tugging at our heart strings all the time, but none have ever affected me like this one. We all know that I barely gasped when Aeris died. I thought the baby metroid’s sacrifice was sad, but I didn’t dwell on it after the game. Earthbound stirs my emotions, yes, but in a completely different way. To the Moon is a competently written story packaged up in a video game to get people like me, who would have no interest otherwise, to experience it.
I know that $13.42 sounds like a lot for an interactive story, but I couldn’t be more satisfied with my purchase. It’s about the same price as seeing a 3D movie, and no movie will move you like To the Moon. Obviously I urge you to head on over to the website and do the same. And while you’re there, check out (and then buy) the soundtrack, too. Laura Shigihara’s piano melodies were more than enough to choke me up on their own, which lent a lot to my desire for the game. It’s also worth mentioning that I’m a pretty big supershigi fan. So, what, less than $20 for both? I’d say that’s a winning deal. Sure, you could wait for it maybe be available through Steam someday and then wait some more for it to go on sale. Just for the love of Pete, don’t pirate it. The people who poured so much time and effort deserve a little recompense. This is a fantastic project, and a labour of love. It’s certainly got my seal of approval.