To the Moon: Funny, heartfelt and, at times, just tragic

December 9, 2011

I’m sure that everyone has, at some point in their life, wanted to go back in time and change something. Whether that is how you reacted to something, a decision you made, or even a conversation you had. Freebird Games’ indie title, To the Moon, is out to ask the question “what if you could go back?” Perhaps not go back in time, but go back through your memories and correct one thing in your life that takes you on a completely different journey. This is a game that asks a lot of interesting, almost philosophical questions about memories and does so in a heartfelt package.

To the Moon follows two scientists, Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts, who have the job of going through people’s memories using a futuristic technology to grant the last wish of someone on their deathbed. In this case, they are tasked with fulfilling the dying wish of an elderly man named Johnny. What does he want? To go to the moon. The problem is he doesn’t know why he wants to go to the moon, so it is the job of these two scientists to go through his memories to figure out why and, more importantly, “fix” his memories so, in his mind, he actually did fulfill his dying wish.

This is a very story-driven experience, one that might not even be classified entirely as a game by some. You control the two leads as they make their way through Johnny’s numerous memories, going backwards through his life and discovering clues to unlock his past memories along the way. Each memory has story moments that play out before you are allowed to explore them, hearing the thoughts of the different characters throughout Johnny’s life. Afterwards, you solve very short puzzles in order to proceed to the next memory using clues you pick up throughout his current memory. It sounds a little complicated, but it’s all very streamlined so that even those unfamiliar with games could pick up and play it.

It’s interactive, but only as a means to move the story along. The puzzles are simplistic and the actual gameplay is akin to a point-and-click adventure title (or, if you’re using a gamepad, a 16-bit RPG). It all works well and good, although there really isn’t much in the way of action. It all moves at a nice pace, but those looking for an old-school RPG or adventure title might be slightly disappointed. However, those looking for an amazingly well-crafted story wrapped in a fun interactive experience will have a lot to look forward to.

To the Moon is funny, heartfelt and, at times, downright tragic. It will hit you at the right moments enough that may even make you shed a tear or two. Johnny’s life, as well as the interactions between the two lead characters, make this one of the most thought-provoking and interesting introspective journeys you’ll find in any game. There are also plenty of great game references that are thoughtfully scattered throughout, but not blatant enough to ever interfere with the major plot. Combine that with the excellent soundtrack and well-written characters and you have an unforgettable experience.

This is a game that isn’t just about one man’s life, but also about the lives and dreams of millions of people who may never fulfill them and the possible consequences of interfering with someone’s life and memories. This is a game that will stir up more emotion from players than any other game released this year, and it does so in a way that you might not expect. It’s far from groundbreaking, but it tells one of the better stories I’ve seen in a game in a long time. I really can’t recommend To the Moon enough.

Pros: Magnificent story, beautifully told
Cons: Limited interactivity

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.