Reviews: To The Moon

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The story is okay, but the pacing is poor; it shouldn't have been a video game
To The Moon is not a game in any real sense; it isn't even meaningfully interactive. The few gameplay elements in it actually shouldn't even be present in the game, as they detract from what the game actually is. Indeed, had the game been a movie, its pacing would have been much better, and it could have taken only two hours to deliver its story rather than five.

At its heart, it is a story of four characters: Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts, who are trying to give dying man Johnny Lyne his final wish: an imaginary journey to the Moon. Delving through his memories, we meet his deceased wife, River, and we learn why it is that he wanted to go to the Moon in the end. The core of the story worked well enough, and while the game was overly sentimental and did not have as interesting a resolution as it might have had, I can't say that I disliked it or felt cheated, though I did like where I THOUGHT the game was going to go partway through a lot better.

The pacing was a bit of a problem in places, particularly towards the end when Eva sets everything up for the grand finale off-screen without explaining it to Neil (and thus, the player), creating some unnecessary tension between the two for no good in-character reason. The sequence could have been greatly shortened, made much more visually interesting, and it still would have worked; instead, it felt weird and unnecessarily drawn-out. There were also a few moments of extreme strangeness. Perhaps the greatest is when the characters at the start of the second act of the story, unable to figure out how to get Johnny to want to go to the Moon, start bursting into Johnny’s memories at random to pitch the idea of going to the Moon to him. While the characters at this point are very sleep deprived, the mood whiplash in this section of the story is severe, as went from some fairly serious memories with humor thrown in to lighten the mood to frenetic comedic action on the part of both of the protagonists. While the humor which was interspersed into the rest of the game actually worked pretty well, the humor in that particular section felt off and too extreme; it is never mentioned again afterwards.

I was left interested in seeing what else could be done with the setting, but I'm not sure if spending five hours on something which should have taken two is a good investment of your time.
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No crying until the end (aaaaand you've failed!)
(Warning: Do not play this game if you are going to be with people shortly after playing it. Your eyes will be reduced to watery, red balls like so many pickled ox's testicles. If you have no choice in the matter, find a convenient excuse; a previously undiscovered allergy to couch dust, or something. Are we cool here? Cool.)

To the Moon (unfortunately, bereft of nary a one Honeymooners joke) is, plain and simple, one of the best narratives yet to be found in our still-young art form (it's growing up so fast these days!). And, despite its seemingly complex story setup (namely, fulfilling someone's dying wish by traveling backwards through their memory in order to instill the desire of that wish in a childhood memory, and have their life play out differently as they strive toward that one goal, if only in their memory), it's not only easy to comprehend, but down-to-earth and human. It intersperses genuine emotion with humor and questions about its own ethics and morality in ways that not only video games, but other forms of media, could learn much from. Just like its graphical presentation, it's simple and clean, and there's where its raw, soul-shattering power comes from.

Perhaps the game's most unique strength is how it deals with the issue of autism in a raw and realistic way that I certainly haven't seen in any medium outside of books. It's obvious it was written by someone not only with experience, but the ability to see the good and bad sides of something that supposedly brings people nothing but trouble and misery. All too many people don't know or care to see the multi-faceted reality of it. After all, people with Down's syndrome are among the happiest people I know. This is the kind of depiction Aspies deserve.

Perhaps the biggest question to ask about To the Moon is... are video games really a proper platform on which to place this kind of narrative? ...I'm not sure. Your own input as a player is minimal, and the times when the strengths of the medium are brought to the fore are few and far between. In fact, sometimes the puzzles and such can be more distracting than anything else. Maybe it would have made a more fitting book? But in the end, it gladdens my heart to know this particular story was told in "our" medium. This is a story that will stay with you for life.
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Some spoilers here
The controls were a little wonky. The music was great and suited the mood very well. The story was beautiful. That said...

The thing I love most about this game is the creators' ability to portray (in my opinion) a very believable and subtle Aspergic character. Having an Aspergic sister, I usually end up cringing when I see what media and pop culture seems to think "autistic" means. There were so many small touches that the creators gave to River that really sold it and made her feel like a real person with Asperger's: she had a tendency to shift her eyes around a lot rather than keeping eye contact; she would say things in a very formal manner (her answer to "Are you two a couple?" among other things); she tried to have the same conversation multiple times over a long period of time ("What else?")... It really was a wonderful, realistic representation of an Aspie.

What makes it even better is how respectful the game is towards her condition. No one talked about "fixing" her, but at the same time, she did have adequate therapy to help her cope. Side characters pointed out things that are often misunderstood or overlooked about ASD (Izzy pointing out that it's exhausting to act neurotypical, though it can be done; Izzy pointing out that neurotypicals don't always know what's best for Aspies; Eva pointing out that Aspies don't always have perfect memories; etc.).

What makes it EVEN BETTER on top of all that is the way that the game captures how strained and difficult a relationship between an NT and an Aspie can be. Communication is not always easy, even between two N Ts or two Aspies, but putting one of each together is like sending Mac files to a Windows computer; the content can be the same, but the process is so different that it's impossible for one side to know what the other is trying to say.

Being an NT myself, I might not have the right to say this, but, in my opinion, this game does a lot to promote autism awareness and to show that, while often difficult for everyone involved, it is possible to have a caring relationship between someone on the spectrum and someone off of it.

10/10.
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Enjoyable but questionable value for money
Pros:
  • Touching story
  • Good music

Cons:
  • Terrible UI
  • Really short
  • Limited interactivity

First off, To The Moon is basically a visual novel, not a game. Interactivity is comparable to a Homestuck flash: gameplay is limited to walking around talking to people and interacting with things until you find the way to the next memory. The UI is a barely functional RPG Maker menu, lacking many of the options you'd expect in a Visual Novel. You can't even view or change the controls.

Apart from that, the story is great. However, it's not something you'd want to play more than once, as there's no way to skip through the game. At All. You can't even skip cutscenes or credits. It is enjoyable, but whether it's worth the money is another question, despite the low price. If you're strapped for cash, I'd recommend getting a different game, but if you have money to spare and it's on sale, you might as well give it a try.

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A Lunar Story That Gets Overshadowed By The Framing Device
To The Moon is a fantastic story(game) about a mans life and his relationship with his neurodifferent wife, told through a framing story where people go through his memories to give him his dying dream of going to the moon.

Nitpicks
  • Keyboard controls much better than mouse
  • Dialogue can be clunky, they make a wit/half-wit joke but use a synonym, so it doesn't actually make sense.
  • It has three acts and labels itself as having three acts, but it places the labels incorrectly, making them feel forced.
  • Repeatedly lampshading your story as 'chessy cr**# does nothing but slightly insult the people who bought your story game and are enjoying it.
  • Pop-culture references feel below the greatness of the story and apart from Twilight don't go beyond 'Hey! X exists!#
  • Thinks it has twists when it really has well-grounded climatic story moments

This game doesn't understand why it is great. The story with the husband and wife is exceptional, it's short and simple but there is an incredible amount of depth and it shows so much. But it doesn't completely recognise that our enjoyment comes from exploring this, the relationship between the two memory explorers are good and they are good characters, the humour is generally funny, but too much focus is given to them when they just aren't the attraction. I enjoyed the jokes, but they didn#t sit right for me, because in the end I didn't come for them and wanted to get to the good bits. All the tension comes from the framing plot, but it ends up being pointless melodrama, particularly towards the end where it becomes very forced. The lives of the people were more interesting and more natural

This extends heavily into the gameplay. Heavy Rain took gameplay and used it to bring the player closer to the story, To The Moon's gameplay removes the player from the story. In the end the game should have been exploring these lives, but it gates it with find 5 things gameplay, which is actually just there to make you see the story. It would have been a better game with less 'gameplay' and more player trust.

And the ending left me completely dissatisified. Giving people fake memories overstepped into removing the purpose of living.

Nevertheless I've had greater engagement in my dissatisfaction than in almost any other polished I've ever played. It pushes boundaries of thought

9/10 Must Play
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