What if, at the end of your life, you could have any wish granted? What would you wish for? It is these questions that are the focal point of Freebird Games’ latest creation, To the Moon. Released November 2011, this adventure game takes place in an alternate version of the modern world where the technology to grant final wishes exists. Doctors Eva Rosalene and Neil Watts from the Sigmund Corps, are hired to grant the last wish of Johnny Wyles. His wish, to go to the moon, a desire even he doesn’t understand. It is up to Rosalene and Neil to uncover the truth as they travel through Johnny’s memories through a matrix-like simulation in order to find a way to make their client’s wish come true.
Now, at first glance, the game doesn’t look like much. The characters are depicted through sprites and the movement can be a bit clunky, constantly getting stuck on shrubs or the corner of a wall. The gameplay is simplistic point and click, you search for clues in each memory that will link to the next memory. The mementos come with their own little puzzle game where you need to put together the complete picture of the object, but this is also very easy. Experienced point and click gamers might be bored but new comers will have a pleasant time since the game really doesn’t punish you for getting things wrong. But in reality, the gameplay is only a fraction of this game’s content.
While an adventure game, To the Moon is really a visual novel, and an excellent one at that. The story is full of drama, humor, sad and heartfelt moments that never lose its potency even with the limited animation. At the same time, however, moments of the story would lose its magic if there wasn’t interactivity provided by the gameplay. It is a unique tradeoff between the two forms of media that have created a unique and incredible storytelling experience. The protagonists, Rosalene and Watts, are a great comedy duo and their antics (such as one pushing the other off of a lighthouse roof) while observing each memory will leave players giggling if not rolling on the floor laughing. To the Moon also makes a few pop culture jokes that never seem stale but add to the likeability of the characters. There is a well-placed joke through the gameplay making fun of random battles in RPG titles. The mystery is also genuinely fascinating; you would think that if someone had a wish, they would remember why. However there is more to this simple wish than meets the eye, and the journey to find the answer is a tale that is more than worth experiencing.
Another stand out to this indie-gaming experience is the music. The combination of piano and subtle orchestration really add to the atmosphere and combines with the dialogue to character emotions and actions to make them powerful. All of the game’s 30 plus songs are available for purchase on Bandcamp or as package purchase on Steam along with the game itself. The highlight of the soundtrack is “Everything’s Alright” the game’s theme performed by Laura Shigihara, a love song that captures the emotional heart of the story to tear jerking levels. However, the game has plenty of quiet moments in order to focus on the drama.
It may not be for everyone, but To the Moon has a combination of incredible storytelling, ease of play and a breath taking musical score that is a must play for Indie game fans.