To the Moon Review

To the Moon Review

Initial NA Release Date: November 1, 2011
Review Date: September 3, 2016
Reviewed on: PC
Platforms: PC, MAC, Linux

A bite-sized adventure game that has some pull, but unfortunately, it’s in the wrong direction.

With a title such as To the Moon, I didn’t know what to expect. A Space exploration narrative perhaps? Not exactly. The game, despite its title is very much on earth and grounded in a story of a man’s last dying wish; going to the moon.


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Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene in one of Johnny’s memories.

Presentation – Sporting the old school game feel with its 16-bit Pixelated art style, the game is by no means a marvel to look at, although it’s not a bad sight either. There are a few scenes in the game that do bring forth the endearing nature of the art style, but those moments are few and far between.

The somber all-piano melody is forgettable at best, it feels as if the music lacks the ambiance that would otherwise give the game the atmosphere and tone it’s aiming for. However, similar to its visuals, the sound in the game is neither good or bad, it simply falls on being generic and is there so you don’t have to listen to your own footsteps.

Forgettable aside, where To the Moon’s presentation gets in the way, is with its invisible walls that block your way and stop progress when exploring. The stoppages aren’t invisible per se, more indistinguishable than anything. Certain plants, patches of road, and even people stop you dead in your tracks when in other cases, you can just walk through them. The instances don’t happen enough to call it game-breaking, but enough to become an annoyance while exploring.


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Memory artifact puzzle.

Gameplay – Walking around an area, reliving memories, collecting enough fragments to take you back to a different memory. Rinse and repeat. The overall gameplay does not hold much excitement, there is some light puzzle solving, nothing innovative but nevertheless it’s there. As an adventure game, gameplay is never the most impressive or crucial aspect for it to be interesting, as it usually relies on the story it tells, However, To the Moon’s narrative doesn’t help elevate the uneventful gameplay.

The story starts with two doctors, Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts, who were hired by their client—a dying man named Johnny Wyles, to make his final wish come true and take him to the moon. Using memory simulation-type technology, Watts and Rosalene incorporate themselves into Johnny’s memories in an attempt to understand Johnny’s final wish and make it come true by augmenting his final memory before he passes.

Due to the nature of having to traverse through memories, the story is made up in reverse and is all over the place, there is no real context to the memories and no true narrative focus. To go along with it being scattered, the overall story is simply uninteresting and failed to pull me in and make me care. The two main characters the memories include— Johnny and River, in different age variants are completely unchanged, the couple speaks in the same tone and maturity both in their youth and as elders. The couple’s relationship feels dry and both play the least part of personable.

The only bright side of the story, doesn’t have anything to do with the main plot at all, and that’s the side banter of Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene, which is genuinely funny and doesn’t feel forced. The best parts of the game are of when Dr. Watts hilariously points out awkward and cheesy moments in the actual plot of the memories or makes one of his classic sarcastic remarks.


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One of many of Dr. Watts’ comedic lines.

Final Impression To the Moon had the ambition to tell an interesting, dramatic tale that has to do with traversing time and dimensional space through memories, but ultimately failed to deliver on a bigger picture.

Tedious gameplay with an uninteresting narrative and simply lifeless characters is not a making of a good combination for an adventure game that holds your attention. The game’s visual is nothing special, but isn’t bad either aside from its few road blocks, the soundtrack carries the same theme of not being bad but falls on the generic side. The only savior to the game’s narrative is the funny moments between Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene which are implemented in a timely matter and serve to be quite comical.

In conclusion, To the Moon aims to move you with a dramatic, heartfelt narrative, but falls short, ending up making you laugh for a few moments but nothing more than that.

PROS

+ Dr. Watts’ and Dr. Rosalene’s banter

CONS

– Invisible walls

– Scattered, uninteresting story

– Lifeless story characters

Final Score – 4.5/10 Poor

NOTES

Full playthrough of To the Moon was roughly 4 hours.

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4 thoughts on “To the Moon Review

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    1. Yes. Without spoiling too much. I personally felt that the communication between John and River was very dry. I’m sure an element of that has to do with River’s condition. But I felt that their overall corresponding was lifeless when compared to the great communication displayed in Neil and Eva’s relationship. As far as no depth, I never felt John nor River got any character development, River, throughout her different ages of life, speaks with the same tone of being calm, aloof, and uninterested almost. John on the other hand, makes attempts to open things up at times, but is shut down with River’s dead end answers. As a whole, I didn’t feel that the two had changed their personality at all. There was a moment in the late stages of the game, of young John and River, that honestly felt way too mature for their proposed years. The scattered plot has mostly to do with the nature of going back in time or “memory time” if you will. There is a constant shift in focus throughout progression. First it’s John, then the lighthouse, River’s condition, the two’s relationship, John’s brother. I don’t mind the different storylines, but they just didn’t feel fledged out. In my opinion, why integrate so many factors to the story, when you can’t really focus on them properly? I would have rather the game be longer, giving more emphasis on the multiple storylines, then just rush them in and out, keeping the games current length. I know this game is a critical darling, and people really care about this game, but I can’t let that cloud my judgement when reviewing it. Again, just because I didn’t necessarily liked the game, doesn’t make it bad. It’s just my opinion not the world’s. Would love to hear your thoughts on the game!

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      1. What you describe as lifeless… that’s the way River seems. The one song with lyrics is just about that! What she says at a young age speaks so so much about her as a person. River and John have trouble communicating with each other, especially because River’s autism. That’s what the game is about. It’s as if you would complain that a race car is fast. That’s whats confusing me so much.

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      2. I see where you’re coming from, perhaps if I would have been more grabbed by the story, I would have taken those nuances to heart. However, by the time the lyrical song scene happened, I was already far detached from the entire narrative, simply because it just failed to grab me throughout my playthrough.

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