“The ending isn’t any more important than any of the moments leading to it,” claims Dr. Eva Rosalene. In “To The Moon,” a story-based, Role-Playing-Game, these words speak deep truths.
The game’s plot revolves around Sigmund Corp., a well known company that creates fabricated memories for those on their deathbeds. These false memories, known as “wish fulfillments” 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 easily amused 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 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 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.
“To the Moon” is well known for it’s captivating music and story; they grab at the hearts of players. The characters have charisma. Dr. Neil Watts, 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. Her serious, uptight nature contrasts completely from Watts, but 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, as if on a pendulum.
That aside, one of the best components of the game, is its original soundtrack, composed by Kan R. Gao, who developed the game along with Laura Shigihara. Most of the songs are played on piano, some accompanied by violins, woodwinds or percussion instruments. Each song reflects the mood of certain plot points, ranging from humorous and lighthearted to desperate and lonely. The soundtrack is masterfully composed, capturing the story’s emotion and adding to the plot. 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.
Players are able to walk through the lush gardens surrounding Johnny’s home and explore the home’s interior as well. In the process, the player can gather information from examining items or talking to other people. In order to progress, the player must collect mementos – items with significant value in Johnny’s memories – to be able to fuel the machine that enables them to leap back into an older memory. The player will then solve various puzzles in order to go on to the next segment of Johnny’s life.
Unfortunately, the gameplay falls 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. Searching for mementos can be aggravating for people; some are difficult to find, causing players to search entire areas to find them. Despite the lacking gameplay, I enjoy the concept of taking significant items and learning more by searching for them. Sometimes, objects can trigger memories or be symbolic of them which I think is rather clever. They provide insight into Johnny’s 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, the euphoria people can feel, the desperation people have to live life to the fullest – all through the lens of a single man’s memories and his wish to go to the moon without knowing why.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.