Exquisite, emotional storytellingTo the Moon
was released late 2011 to immense critical acclaim - it received several awards as one of the best Indie-games of 2011. Steam user reviews are also "overwhelmingly positive" (97% positive out of nearly 12.000 reviews is really impressive). That's already quite an achievement by itself, as it was the first game made by the then new and really small development studio "Freebird Games". So I went into this game with quite some expectations, and I am very happy they were all fulfilled, and more.
To put it frankly: as a game that wants to tell an original, emotionally involving story, To the Moon
is simply among the very, very best. Its story is so original, so gripping and so sad at some points, that I found myself completely absorbed by it, and I played through the entire game in one day and almost in a single go. That's no exceptional feat: it's not very long, I needed just under six hours to reach the end. But what wonderful six hours these were! Since To the Moon
relies for more than 90% on its story and its twists and turns, I won't spoil anything here. Suffice it to say that I felt involved in a way that a good book or a good movie can achieve -and maybe even more.
It's not only the story that is gripping, there is more to it. To the Moon
dwells extensively on very important social and philosophical questions, such as the desire to develop one's individuality amid a rather bland society, or man's right to decide (or not) on his own life's ending. Heavy and even depressing as this may sound, in reality the game succeeds wonderfully in touching these delicate issues in a subtle way, made all the more digestible by its great use of humour. I found myself quite often laughing aloud, only to feel tears coming up the next minute or so. It's this so difficult to achieve balance between humour and depth, that makes this game outstanding and a true piece of art. Dialogues, of which there are plenty, are simply masterful: all credits to the story- and copy-writers for this one.
Not everything is perfect, though: the actual gameplay is rather bland and even repetitive, since it mostly involves moving the two playable characters around on a small map and interacting with objcets and other persons in a rather straightforward point-and-click adventure-syle. Happily, the inventory is kept very simple, but there are is a whole series of mini- (even micro-) games that is simply boring. But even this rather disappointing gameplay vanishes into nothing thanks to the story and the emotions it evokes. The subtle 16-bit graphics are quite interesting: even though heavily pixelated, they manage to bring across quite some detail, even on an emotional level.
All in all, this is a gem of a game; a testimony to the fact that Indie-games have evolved into gamings most innovative department, where content is so much more important than package. It's a must-have for anyone who takes his gaming even a tiny bit serious.
Overall score: 9.5/10