I finally got around to buying, playing, and finishing To the Moon this week. I had read a review when it first came out from Rock, Paper, Shotgun that made me incredibly interested in the title, but I couldn’t commit to its purchase until its recent release on Steam. While the game isn’t quite what I expected it to be, I am very happy to have played and experienced it.
There are two major things that everyone will appreciate about To the Moon no matter what. First, the game’s classic SNES aesthetic. The game looks and moves like a typical old-school JRPG, which really adds a charm. At first I thought the visuals might detract from the overall seriousness of the story, but with a few jokes that touch upon the visuals of the game and a script that would stand on its own with any visual presentation, Freebird Games made an excellent choice.
Second, the game’s soundtrack is really strong. While it isn’t as catchy or memorable as other more recent gaming soundtrack classics, it is far better integrated within the world and emotion of the story than most games. As with any good movie, To the Moon’s soundtrack adds an added layer of emotional intensity to a game that is already emotionally intense.
The major issue that I have and that I think will hold me back from really pushing this game onto my friends is the real lack of any gameplay, and the overall shortness of the game. I really have no idea what they might have done to make this more of a game. Progress and many story elements do require a level of interaction, but there is no depth at all. It is at best an interactive short story game. I ran through the game in less than three hours, some deeper Adventure game elements might have padded out the journey a little more evenly. I can definitely see several people I know getting bored and quitting within the first act.
However, I do think the game, in its current state, is worth the price of admission. Yes, it isn’t really a game nor is it very long. But it is rare to see solid storytelling like this in any medium, let alone video games. To the Moon offers proof that a bare bones 2D game with absolutely no voice acting can resonate with its players on the strength of its script alone.
To the Moon is a fun ride. It will make you laugh and it very well might make you cry. Every major RPG company could learn from To the Moon, especially the ones that spend so much unnecessary time on things like 100% voice acting and state of the art graphics engines. We should all support the supreme importance of writing, even in video games.