To the Moon

Developer: Freebird
Publisher: Freebird
Year: 2011
Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Switch, tvOS

Rating: 6

The ending isn’t any more important than the events leading up to it.

To the Moon is near highly regarded and nearly every review you’ll see is from a dude who cried or became otherwise really emotional while played. While it didn’t hit me as much as most, it is indeed a lovely little interactive story that just about anyone would enjoy.

You play as two scientists, Eva and Neil, who have clashing personalities but are both dedicated to their work, which entails altering dying people’s memories so they can leave this world believing they achieved all of their dreams with no regrets. We meet up with them at the beginning of yet another job where they visit an old man named Johnny who has been widowed for some time and never realized his dream of going to the moon. Eva and Neil’s job is to hook him up to their equipment, travel slowly back through his memories up to when he was a child, and make some alterations to initiate the life he always wanted.

This is all detailed fairly early, and I cynically played out in my head every beat of this story and the eventual cliché moral to be bestowed upon me at the end. Thankfully, virtually nothing went as expected and I was able to enjoy the ride and the ending.

While the game is highly interactive, the player has no influence over the story, making it essentially a walking simulator. I certainly enjoy this genre of game, though I was thrown off being that this was made in RPG Maker, a genre that is entirely built on making tons of choices. But other than the design and music, there are no similarities. Interactivity is limited to speaking with characters and interacting with objects, mostly identifying triggers to activate additional memories. Each scene ends with a simple tile puzzle (under the guise of unlocking new memories), which doesn’t add anything to the experience other than to engage a different part of the brain for a couple of minutes before advancing the story some more.

The graphics are up to par with some of the better jRPGs of the SNES and Genesis era, and the score consistently amplifies the mood in each scene without overplaying its hand. One can never get stuck and gameplay is smooth whether you prefer using keyboard and mouse or a gamepad. There is never an unpleasant moment for the three to four hours it takes to see the story through.

I wish there had been more interactivity, especially different ways to alter his memories that would lead to alternate storylines and endings. That way the core of this story could have remained with a bit more to do than just walking around clicking on hotspots. Thankfully the witty rapport from the two leads help keep things fresh and the plot tends to zig when you think it’s going to zag. I don’t know if I’ll play any of the well-regarded sequels, but To the Moon was a rewarding story to experience for the afternoon I spent with it.

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