To The Moon

They’ll give you a second chance, and they’ll let you relive your life. All the way… from the beginning.

To the Moon is a 2011 role-playing / graphic adventure / visual novel video game developed and published by Freebird Games. It is the fourth video game by Canadian designer/composer Kan “Reives” Gao and the first commercial production by his indie game development team Freebird Games, and was designed using the RPG Maker XP engine. To the Moon was nominated for many awards, and was voted the best indie RPG of 2011 by online publication RPGFan.

To The Moon

In a not so distant future, medicine has found a way to “rewrite” people’s memories. A company called Sigmund Corp. offers a service of “wish fulfillment” in exchange for a hefty sum of money. The procedure consists in replacing the true memories of a dying person for some made-up ones, thus fulfilling any dream that the person hadn’t been able to accomplish or changing anything that gives them regrets.

Doctors Eva Rosalene and Neil Watts, who are Sigmund Corp. employees arrive to a seaside plot secluded from society to see their latest patient, John Wyles, of whom they do not know much about. John (or “Johnny”, as he fancies being called) is a wealthy old man who lives in a luxurious seaside house close to a lighthouse and his dying wish is to go to the Moon.

Eva and Neil go progressively deeper into Johnny’s memories, so far it’s business as usual for them. Suddenly, something is not right. Johnny’s deepest memories can’t be accessed and they can’t find any way to transmit to the younger Johnny in the made-up timeline the desire to become an astronaut so he can go to the Moon. The people taking care of Johnny in real life inform the young doctors that the doesn’t have much remaining time to live, so the doctors will have to work around the clock to finish their job. They will have to meticulously explore Johnny’s memories and his past relationships with other people to make it.

To The Moon was developed using the RPG Maker XP graphics engine, which proposes a similar experience in the visuals department to some luminaries of the RPG genre from the ’90s like Chrono Trigger or Zelda: A Link To The Past. That concludes all possible comparisons, since, while graphically and, at some moments the playability reminds us of RPG games, it decidedly is no such thing. It has no battle system, no inventory nor party mechanics. It would be more accurate to categorize it as a graphic adventure or a visual novel.

In the graphics department, as mentioned before, it’s on par with luminaries of the RPG genre from the 16 bit era. The story is a pretty original one for a game and it reminds of us films such as Vanilla Sky, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind or Inception. The game is well designed overall, being all the named characters completely distinguishable from each other. The soundtrack is perfectly up to the occasion, imprinting even more passion and drama to the already convoluted plot. I especially recall the song called “For River / To The Moon” which gave me goosebumps (in a good way) several times along the playthrough.

Speaking about the gameplay, this may be the game’s weakest feat. It’s almost all the time point n’ click action, reading dialogues, every now and then finding objects and very rarely solving some rather simple puzzles. The dialogues are well written. Even if they are a little tedious at times, they are usually bearable and contribute well to the development of the story. Special mention to all pop culture references they have (to Dragon Ball Z, Street Fighter, Doctor Who and plenty more) which make the dialogues far more entertaining. Decisions made by the player during the playthrough do not affect the ending or the development of the story, so the replay value is null. The story has been complemented by two Christmas-oriented DLCs or “minisodes”, as the producer has called them. They have been made available for free to owners of the game on the Valve Steam digital game download platform.

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