Thursday, 13 December 2012

2D Games Aren't Dead Yet: To the Moon

If there ever was a game that catered to me personally, it would be To the Moon. I'm a big fan of story driven games, which is why I love Alan Wake so much. If the story is definitely the reason that the game exists, I'm pretty much predestined to love it. Like the rest of the games from Freebird Games, the game is focused on the story that it is telling.

A poster that shows the main characters looking at the patient as he lies in his bed asleep with an IV.
Image from 
The official description of the game is:
To the Moon is an indie Adventure RPG, about two doctors traversing through the memories of a dying man to fulfill his last wish.
An  intriguing  concept, right? The game doesn't actually have all that much in the way of gameplay, but it is based around the story, so that's ok. The mission of Freebird Games is to make games that immerse the player in the story and atmosphere of the game.

This is where I'd love to give a shout-out to Kan "Reives" Gao, the head of Freebird Games (and a Canadian). He has put out 4 games now (although I struggle to call two of them games). I've played through To the Moon, The Mirror Lied, and Do You Remember My Lullaby? and have started on Quintessence: The Blighted Venom. I love them all so far. The goal of creating immersive games is definitely one that the can pull off. I've felt pulled into the game world in each of their games, feeling for the characters (even if they don't have a face).

But if you want to talk about immersion, then the music is where to look. It's amazing what having the right soundtrack can do for a game. It builds the mood and sets the scene. The music for their games was composed and preformed by Kan, who is an amazing  pianist. He's unfairly talented. There's this one part in To the Moon that's supposed to be super suspenseful because you're about to figure out the answer to the mystery, and the music plays right into that feeling of anxiety.

The musician behind Plants vs. Zombies, Laura Shigihara, is also involved in To the Moon. She composed and performed the song Everything's Alright that plays near the end of the game. It's a slow, melancholic song that really tugs at your heartstrings. I was crying when the song came on. Over the past week, I've probably listened to it about 20 times. It's just that good. I want them to release piano sheet music for it so I can learn to play and sing it at the same time.

On a more technical side, the game was made using RPG Maker XP, so it has an adorable 16-bit graphical style. Because it was built on an RPG engine, it has many of the features of an RPG, such as an inventory system, but it doesn't ever make use of them. They're just kind of there.

A screenshot showing off the classic 2D art style of the game.
Image from
An unfortunately limitation of using the RPG Maker engine is that it doesn't work on Mac or Linux (or Haiku), so if you want to play this game, you're going to need a Windows PC.

The characters in this game have actual personalities, and the dialogue is snappy and well written. One of the complaints that people frequently have about games is that they just have one dimensional characters, and thankfully this game doesn't suffer from that. Every character has a motivation, and they grow on you as you find out more about them by exploring the past.

Obviously, the trade-off of having a game that's so story driven is that there is little to no replay value. After playing through it once, there is quite literally nothing else to do. The game will be the exact same no matter how many times you play it. There is no alternate paths, no secondary endings, no hidden content. But, it's an indie game that takes about 4 hours to play through, and it only costs $10 (or less if you catch it on a Steam sale). It's the first in a series of games and the sequel is being worked on right now. It's well worth your money.

If you don't already know, I love stories that can make me feel, even if they make me feel crappy. If their goal is to break my heart and they end up reducing me to tears, then more power to them. I love the pain for some reason. And so far, it seems like everyone of Freebird Games' projects is designed to make you cry. To the Moon succeeded for me, so I'm recommending it for all of you. If you like stories, please, play this game.

Official Website
Buy on Steam

p.s. On a side note, I'm off to Kenya for this Christmas. I was thinking of doing something similar to last year, where I'd post updates about the trip on this blog. However, Internet access will be a lot more spotty this time around, so I won't be doing it every day. I will try to do it as often as I can, but we'll see how it works out. Check back soon for update 1.

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