Freebird Games’ To the Moon is a prime example of what talented creators can do with relatively powerful software to help them out. Released in 2011 initially for the PC and subsequently released for everything from smartphones to the Switch since that time, To the Moon was developed using the RPG Maker engine.
Crafted with an emphasis on narrative and the exploration of that, To the Moon is light on action and traditional role-playing game elements. Nonetheless, it is often cited by critics who have experienced it as one of the best games of its kind if not one of the best ever.
How to Download To the Moon
To download the game for the platform of your choice, click on the Download button that you will find at the end of this review.
The Game Review
To the Moon’s ability to transform an otherwise maudlin scenario into a compelling game is the first of many feathers in its cap. You control one of two scientists who are tasked with reconstructing a dying man’s memories in order to fulfill his dying wish.
A strange concept for a video game, to be sure, To the Moon doesn’t revel in the bizarre premise it presents nor does it overly dramatize any one aspect in order to “drive home” the point. Players largely explore the narrative in an organic fashion in the same way they would any other role-playing game – sans battles and a feeling of danger or vulnerability.
Instead, what you get is a layered game that forces you to consider what is on offer here. The scientists are not doing their tasks of reconstructing some man’s memories out of altruism but rather as part of a corporation that specializes in such things as a kind of end-of-life “make a wish foundation” for people who want to live out some kind of realistic VR sim before jotting off to the next plane.
The dying Johnny Wyles wants to go to the Moon but he’s not quite sure why. Figuring that out, in order to create a realistic simulation, is the crux of the game.
Because of its lack of any real action elements, evaluation of To the Moon relies heavily upon how one feels about its story. To be sure, what we have here is a heady attempt at all kinds of things.
Whether any of it works is likely in the eye of the beholder though we doubt action-addicted gamers will make it far enough into the game to care one way or another. Criticizing the game for a lack of action sequences is somewhat strange given its earnest and straightforward premise.
The game isn’t pretending to be a role-playing game in the vein of a Final Fantasy. Instead, it forces us to contemplate gaming as a method of storytelling. Yet, even here there are some problems for the critical gamer.
While it does make us think about video games as a way to tell a story without necessarily having elements we normally associate with a game, the question then becomes whether a video game is the best method to convey the narrative in the first place.
To the Moon is to be lauded for its attempt and it will likely land with many gamers but it is an idiosyncratic experience at best.