“The ending isn’t any more important than any of the moments leading to it” (Dr. Eva Rosalene). For the story-based Role-Playing-Game, “To the Moon”, these words speak deep truths. Sigmund Corporation (better known as Sigmund Corp.), is a well known company that creates fabricated memories for those on their deathbeds. These false memories, known as “wish fulfillment”, are created by a machine; people with little life left are able to gain false memories so they will believe that they lived a life without regrets. Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts are tasked with granting the wish of an elderly man, Johnny, who is on the brink of death. Johnny desires to go to the moon more than anything, but doesn’t know why. In an effort to grant his final wish, the amusable and childish Dr. Neil Watts and the serious Dr. Eva Rosalene ask you to join them as they journey through Johnny’s memories to find his will to go to the moon.
“To the Moon” is a PC based game made on RPG Maker. Although it is not for free, it can be played on Steam, and downloaded from various websites. “To the Moon” is also available on Android and iOS devices, and multiple ‘Let’s Plays’ of “To the Moon” can be found on Youtube from a variety of many different channels. Some notable youtubers include Pewdiepie, Cryaotic, and Markiplier, who provide their own commentary on the game as well as insights and opinions on the story itself; in which its departing words could be perceived differently by everyone.
“To the Moon” is well known for it’s captivating music and story, easily grabbing the hearts of many players. It has a charisma all its own: drawing people in with characters such as Dr. Neil Watts, who always finds a way to come up with clever one-liners and one up Dr. Rosalene. His humor and sarcasm is incredibly contagious, and his informal behavior speaks to the child in all of us. On the other hand, Dr. Eva Rosalene is a complete opposite of Dr. Watts. Her serious, uptight nature contrasts completely from Watts and at times when Watts seems insincere, Rosalene shows her empathy to the other characters.
The story touches on topics such as Asperger’s Syndrome, coping with the death of loved ones and the motivation to achieve dreams. Throughout the game, the story causes the player to feel their emotions swing between joy and sadness, similar to that of a pendulum.
That aside, one of the best components of the game is it's original soundtrack, composed by Kan R. Gao, the developer of the game along with Laura Shigihara. Most of the songs in the track are played on the piano, some accompanied by violins, woodwinds or percussion instruments. Each song reflects on the mood of certain plot points, ranging from humorous and lighthearted to desperate and lonely. The soundtrack is masterfully composed, having songs that capture emotion and add onto parts of the story. In my opinion, some of the best songs are “Born A Stranger”, “Having Lived” and “Lament of a Stranger”. These three songs capture despair, heartbreak and the intense isolation that the characters go through within Johnny’s memories. “Born A Stranger”, in particular focuses on the isolation that characters feel and their struggle to be seen as who they truly are.
The player is able to walk around the landscape which usually is of the lush gardens surrounding Johnny’s home, the interior of his house and several other areas. From this, the player can also gather information from examining items or talking to other people. In order to progress, the player must collect mementos; items of significant value in Johnny’s memories, to be able to fuel the machine to leap back into an older memory. The player will then solve various sized puzzles of the mementos and complete the memory in order to go on to the next segment of Johnny’s life.
However, the gameplay aspect seems to fall rather short in comparison to the story and music. Most of the gameplay is walking around, searching for information and solving puzzles, which can be dull and tiring to the player. Searching for mementos can be aggravating for people, as some are harder to find, which causes them to search the entire area to find it. Despite the gameplay being a little lacking, I enjoy the concept of taking significant items and learning more by searching for them. Sometimes, certain objects can trigger memories and they can act as symbols of them which I think is rather clever. These mementos are symbolic of moments in Johnny’s life, providing insight to his relationships with his loved ones.
To the Moon is in a class all by itself; the game captures the heartwarming moments of life, the ups and downs as well as the euphoria people can feel, and above all, the desperation of people to live life to the fullest: all through the eyes of a single man’s memories and wish to go to the moon without knowing why.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.