So as if I didn’t have enough on an already busy schedule (I’m excusing the fact I’m sans-next-generation console here), I had a lot of fun doing the 12 Shames last year, so I thought now would be a good time to do them again. Nothing says holiday like working extremely hard every day of your 2 weeks off, right? I would’ve started this yesterday except I had Christmas shopping to do, so here I am today.
I’ll admit a few things straight off the bat. At current count, I have around 1267 games in my library; and if you consider how many of these I’ve ‘completed’ (completed here meaning either a) finished or b) not going back to, then I’ve only completed 430 of these. It’s a mess. That’s why I love doing this little experiment. It gives me a chance to play some of these titles.
The first day I wanted to ease myself into this, to test the waters so to speak. I wanted something short, but something that would have a lasting impression. Hell, I wanted to play To the Moon. My wife, Anna, had played this at my request previously, and enjoyed it even though the game itself is terribly sad.
It’s hard to explain exactly what To the Moon is. There are not many ‘game’ elements in it, only finding one of five objects in an area and interacting with it. In the same regard, there are puzzles (ish), but they’ve got no time limit or piece limit, they just need to do be done, and that can usually be done in a few moves. Nothing you’ll ever get stuck on. What the game is though, is a beautiful story about a dying man named Johnny who hires an agency to come in and ‘alter’ his memories, so he achieves his life goal (or at least thinks he does) or going to the moon.
Throughout the course of the game you’ll delve into the memories of the dying man, starting from his newest memories all the way back to his childhood, in the hopes of Inception-ing the want to go to the Moon into him from there. As you go back further and further into the man’s past though, the more questions you’ll have about Johnny’s life, and that of his wife, as his caretaker doesn’t know much about him.
The art style reminds me heavily of Final Fantasy XI, with a pixel-y look which lends itself to the a sense of nostalgia felt by going back through memories; it almost feels like it lends itself to the passing of time itself, in a way that I don’t think newer graphics could have done. The music too, light piano music similar to the tunes of Isaac Shepard, doesn’t have a lot of complexity to it, but the simple theme-and-variation works well with the tone of the game.
There’s a lot about the game which I find a bit hard to swallow though, and it’s all stuff that’s completely left unsaid. You know that first scene in Up, where you pretty much don’t want to love anyone ever again because you have that horrible sense of loss? That’s To the Moon, except you’re experiencing it interactively, forcing the story along no matter how painful it is.
I love the game, honestly, but my biggest qualms are the ones of the horrible morality of it all. By the end of the game they have completely changed how Johnny remembers his life, and I’m not convinced that reaching your life’s goal is worth losing everything you actually did achieve. Maybe that’s just my own opinion, but I’d rather remember the things I did do rather than falsely remember things I did to get to the destination. Again, maybe that’s just me though.
There are other issues which hit you right at home too, if you love anyone. Consequences of the decisions you make with your partner, breakdowns in communications in marriage, how to deal with illness, regrets that you couldn’t talk about properly, not understanding what the other person is feeling. They’re all harsh lessons because they could so easily reflect any of our lives, and that’s what makes this game great; it’s relatable.
This game is only a few bucks during most sales or around $10 normally. It’s a great game; it’s only like three hours long and it’s a beautifully sad tale, even if it’s got some happy undertones. Maybe tomorrow though I might play something that doesn’t make me cry like a bitch though.