Friday, 8 March 2013

Finished: To The Moon

To The Moon is an adventure game by Freebird Games made using RPG Maker. It follows a pair of doctors, Dr Eva Rosaline and Dr Neil Watts as they explore an old man named Johnny's memories in order to rewrite them such that they fulfill his final wish, to visit the moon.

They work for an organisation whose business is just that, you are reaching the end of your life, so you hire them to search through your memories, nudge various events and simulate how your life would have been had you taken the other path. Then they dump these new memories over the old ones.

The game itself is fairly simple, consisting primarily of exploring an area/memory to find objects and talk to people, then once the right objects have been found, to complete a fairly simple tile flipping puzzle. To be honest though, that doesn't matter, because the game tells the story of Johnny's life so well using these systems and music, that you can't help but be drawn in. The game took me about 3 and a half hours to complete, and once I was about half an hour in I did not want to stop until the story was over.

The way the story is told has a kind of memento vibe to it, the doctors have to start with more recent memories and work their way back toward childhood, so you have a similar pattern of seeing Johnny's more recent history, but not have the context. It results in drawing conclusions that you later revise as new information comes to light and completely changes the interpretation of later events.

Personally I find the concept of deliberately rewriting someone's memories really disturbing, that the technology exists has interesting consequences from a world building perspective, and whilst clearly they have permission (complete with a contract) to be rewriting Johnny's mind I still find it to be morally questionable. The game feels heartwarming and uplifting towards the end, but I can't help but feel that those notes are false in the wider context of what is going on. Changing how Johnny remembers his life doesn't change the life he actually led.

I do think that this game could probably be told just as well in another medium, though perhaps not by the game designer. I wonder if in its current state, the game format results in a closer attachment by the player to Eva, Neil and Johnny.

Of the games I played in 2012, this one probably had the greatest emotional impact on me, I thoroughly recommend playing through it and picking up the wonderful soundtrack.

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