Tuesday, December 8, 2015

To The Moon - Game Review - Humble Indie Bundle X

I picked up Humble Indie Bundle X last week.  After installing the games, I didn't know where to start.  I looked over the titles and their screenshots.  One in particular caught my eye.  The title was To The Moon.  I was intrigued by it's 90's sprite-ish overhead Japanease art style.  I like this style as it reminds me of many great games I have played like ChronoTrigger, Zelda, and Pokemon.  I also wanted to be an astronaut as a kid, and the concept of going back in your memory to live another life was very interesting.   I decided to give the game a try, and I was not disappointed.  While there are some game-play flaws, I think the story, theme, and heart put into the game by the developers trumps the downfalls enough to say this was a great play-though.


Visual Style







The visuals in the game are amazing.  The colors used blend well together.  I always enjoy games that have such great styling versus games that go for absolute realism.  I think the artists and director captured the settings they wanted perfectly.  The settings were nicely detailed.  Outdoors, there were flowers, animals, and beautiful scenery.  Indoors, the decor was excellently styled, and no detail was left out.  They were vibrant when they needed to be, and dark and mysterious when the situation was tense.   



Audio



The score of the game is simple, but catchy and enchanting. There are a few musical themes that run through the game that ties the Acts together nicely.  The audio is perfectly matched in all situations, and It never really had any noticeable flaws.  I also like how the developer chose to use high quality audio, and not 8 bit audio like a lot of games of this visual style tend to use.  This decision adds much more heart and feeling to the game, and you didn't feel like there was a barrier between yourself and the game world.


Gameplay



While the game as a whole works, the biggest part that didn't work for me was the actual game play.  The point-click navigation is kind of annoying, and I didn't realize until the last 10 minutes of the game that I could use the arrow keys to move.  The characters move a little to slow for my taste as well.  I really just wanted to move through the story, and the game play actually seemed to be slowing my progress down.  The biggest annoyance for me were the visual "flip the tile" puzzles.  These were really pointless,  they really had no explanation for why they existed.  Luckily the puzzles were very easy and took 30 seconds max to complete.  Secondly, finding the mementos became a pain by the end of the game.  There were a few times that finding the last memento was quite a pain.  On the other hand, I enjoyed when the doctors had to "squeeze" mementos out of Johnny to proceed.  My biggest gripe, and nearly game breaking bug, is the horse riding level.  This was a painful, painful, level to play through.  The level is way too big, and it is very unclear what you must do. Once you do complete what you are intended to do, you can't dismount the horse.  Only after 5 or so minutes of frustration, did I check Google.  Luckily many others had the same issue I had, and explained how to proceed.   


Story



The story told in the game is very touching. I find myself liking these types of games lately.  I like being able to play a short 2-4 hour game, and be able to get a narrative out of it as well.  Some other examples of games I've liked along these lines are Braid, Dear Ester. and Limbo.  To The Moon is definitely science fiction, but the themes they touch on are very human.  The story is very intriguing, and mysterious.  It really did keep me guessing until the end.  The denouement gets a little boring, but it does nicely tie up the story.  

Conclusions

To The Moon is a beautifully crafted game experience.  A polished art style and excellently produced soundtrack hide some minor gameplay flaws.  These well done parts also make the not-so-fast paced gameplay a minor hindrance.  Overall I'd give this game a 8.5/10

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