Recently I was perusing through some old YouTube favorites and clearing out some oldies. I found music from the soundtrack of the game To The Moon. I’d wager it is one of my all-time favorite games and one of the best video game stories I’ve played in some time.
I picked it up a few years back on a Steam sale in a cheap bundle with the soundtrack. The trailer, intrigued me with the offer of an “Inception”-esque adventure into the mind of a dying man to help fulfil his greatest wish in life and the music in the trailer was appealing. The graphics were simple pixel sprites reminiscent of old SNES games. I downloaded it and over the next few nights off between graveyard shifts at work, I plowed through the story.
The Story (Spoilers Ahead)
You play Dr. Eva Rosaline and Dr. Neil Watts, who use technology to alter one’s memories and help fulfil their dying wish, whatever it be. The process is so risky it can only be performed on people who are literally on their death bed. The characters are tasked with fulfilling the wish of Johnny Wyles, a widower who lives in seclusion near a lighthouse on a cliff. His dying wish is to go to the moon.
The characters enter his mind in an Inception-like style and work backwards through his life, connecting memories, learning about their patient, and determining which points to change to make it so the wish comes true in their memory. What unfolds is a well written story about Johnny and his life that is sure to tug at the player’s heart strings, literally. There are plenty of “Let’s Play” videos where the players are in tears (of sadness AND joy) by the end.
The game itself is rather simplistic. Bouncing from point and click interaction to arrow-keys to move around the characters. Each level is a different memory where you’re unlocking artifacts and objects from the character’s life to strengthen the memory. This involves interacting with objects and NPC’s, leading to more dialogue and exposition on Johnny’s life. The interface is probably the biggest frustration of the game as sometimes you’re trying to find the last object but have no idea what it is. It often leads you to interacting with every object, plant, chair, etc, in order to find the last item. The game borrows gameplay types from other games as well, with the occasional humorous Final Fantasy combat style to some 2d moving and shooting elements. For having been created by a handful of people using RPG Maker XP, it is pretty impressive.
The game itself is rather short, which makes the standard $9.99 price seem a little much. My total gameplay time from start to finish was about 4.5 hours according to Steam. In my opinion, this is a must-play, but I’d honestly say wait for a holiday sale.
This is one of the best parts of the game. Most of it was composed by Ken Gao, one of the game designers with the title song by YouTube artist Laura Shigihara. It is a delightful soundtrack that further enhances the storytelling in-game. In one of the most touching moments of the story, the music kicks in and gets you in all the feels. If you can get it as a bundle with the soundtrack, DO IT.
The game is a fantastic example of what Indie games can be. The storytelling is superb and really where this game shines. The graphics are simple, but effective in adding to the story. The gameplay, while clunky at times, is fun enough to keep you engaged in the story. The soundtrack is well composed and compliments the game extremely well.