Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On To the Moon

This man is capable of complete
emotional devastation.
I'm constantly reminded by my new college buddies that I should be a gamer. I bear all resemblance to a gamer, talk about games comfortably, understand the basic ins-and-outs of the idea; I just never get around to actually playing any games which confuses them.

Y'see, I stopped getting invited out to movies for being a 'jaded bitter movie cynic'. Some day, I'll admit, I'd like to be able to consider myself a professional writer, which has no relation to quality, it has to do with a regular paycheck. That said, I have an obsession with ideas of quality. Every piece of fiction, of whatever medium is worth turning over and scrutinizing and ultimately judging 'can I do better, and how?' With this mentality, most everything I uncover is ... shit. (I'm looking at you EA and Blizzard).

But I have a friend who is almost as nuts as I am and he recommended To the Moon, the indie game released a little over a year ago by Canadian designer/composer Kan 'Reives' Gao


Okay, I feel an explanation is owed. I do not hate games like Halo and Modern Warfare (aka FPS) because of the style. Yes, I do suck at them, but over the years some of the games that really revved my gamer engine were Heavy Rain and Alan Wake. Neither of these games had a strong 'game' aspect. It was more like interactive storytelling. God forbid the writer prefers games with strong emphasis on story. And I blame gamer-asshats for steering the gamer ship in this direction because I was told about a week ago that story isn't what games are about, rutting Super-Smash Bro. fans ....

So four-five hours after receiving To the Moon, I had run the gambit of possible emotions (giggling laughter, bereft tears, and raging anger (yep, all three of the feelers) because of SPRITES. That was a new one. I mean, in a day and age where the focus is on the never-ending arms race for better graphics, the sprites are the ones that really got me.

You might notice that I'm either really easily distracted or I'm dancing around the subject of what the game is actually about. I'd be much happier to just say 'go play the damn thing', but that won't really do.

You progress this interactive story (even I have to admit, this isn't so much a game as a pop-up book with a mouse), with two characters (Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts) who work for Sigmund Corp. where people on their death beds can have their memories rewritten so that a single wish can be fulfilled and they can die regret free.

Right off the bat we have a existentialist tragedy, and as the two characters progress backwards from their client John's most recent memories toward his childhood, mysteries regarding his mysterious wish to 'Go to the Moon', his wife, and his whole life pretty much are unveiled. I mean, I spent the opening of the game just rolling with the punches, seeing where it would take me and I was pleasantly surprised and delighted over and over again. I didn't know where the game was taking me, (I hate spoilers so I was literally flying blind) and ... hell, I don't really know what else to say. It's easier to rant about things I dislike.

Also, I have to shout out to the Soundtrack, which I thought was stellar. And the fact that Kan Gao, so far as I can tell designed the game almost single-handedly is really inspiring. He is a masterful storyteller with a quick wit necessary to offset the deep emotional impact. Never before has a game managed to make me cry and laugh in the same scene and I'm not ashamed to admit that. Ah, hell, what can I say? I'm a sucker. Definitely one worth checking out.

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