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CONSOLE: PC DEVELOPER: Freebird Games PUBLISHER: Freebird Games
RELEASE DATE (NA): November 1, 2011 GENRE: Adventure/RPG
// review by Beverley

The moon is waiting.

If you are a massive indie game hipster like me, you may have heard of a company called Freebird Games and their masterpiece To The Moon, which can be purchased on Steam for a measly $10. Though this game describes itself as an action-RPG, it is more like the RPG Maker equivalent of a point-and-click mystery adventure where you travel though the memories of a dying old man looking for emotionally salient objects trying to help him fulfill his dying wish to go to the moon. This game is not very action-based but has a fantastically well-developed plot that focuses on all kind of groovy stuff like death, loss, your insane wife who dies but left you tons of paper bunny rabbits, and your fantasies about being an astronaut. Most of the "gameplay" consists in reading between the lines to unfold the dying old man's cryptic and tragic history, but there are a few surprise mini-games that spice things up. The story's themes also invite some real-life sleuthing on human existence technology and consciousness. The humour of the game is very quirky, and you will come to love many of the eccentric characters of the story.

It would be unfair to praise Freebird Games for the beautiful graphics in To The Moon as this game was developed using RPG Maker Ace, which has pre-prepared (gorgeous!) 16-bit graphics. However, their use of special effects were cleverly applied in a way that enhanced the story dramatically, making the idea of technology to travel through someone else's memories much more believable. Furthermore, the way music was used to evoke certain emotions and themes was highly effective and very Chrono Trigger-esque (which is always a good thing). It was amazing the way they could take such a simple melody and give it such impact. I did find some flaws in the environments and their physics (like being able to pass through places I shouldn't have), and there were times when I did not know what the next step was to advance the plot, which can be frustrating as such an obscure game never has an easily findable walkthrough. Still, when I found my next step it usually seemed obvious in hindsight.

Bang! Zoom! To the moon, Alice!

Overall, the component of this game that really took central stage was the tightly-woven and complex plot. The layers of symbolism and foreshadowing in this game were comparable to the complexity of a good novel (but with better graphics and music!). There were times when I gleefully congratulated myself on having read the cues to foresee certain aspects of the story, times when I was terrified by the creepy goings-on in this old man's memories, and other times still when I was completely shattered to see a tragic twist unfold out of nowhere. Seeing the narrative from the most recent memory (end) to the oldest memory (beginning) also made the experience of this narrative original and more cryptic.

Despite the fantastic plot development, if you are looking for a game with high action and a good challenge, I would point you elsewhere — this game is more for people who enjoy the slow-paced exploration of environments, puzzles, cutscenes, and dialogue. The developers advise that you do not approach the experience with any preconceived notions of it being a game, a book, or a film; I would say, when approached this way, as merely an experience, it is incredibly rich and very worth it. I advise you keep an eye on Freebird Games for future developments, as this early work, To the Moon, shows signs of great potential.

(N.B.: I gave this game an extra .5 for their reference to Animorphs, which is awesome.)

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