Videogame (2011). Freebird Games. Designed by Kan Gao. Platforms: Win.
To the Moon is a graphical Adventure about Dream Hacking in which events are displayed from above in a forced three-dimensional perspective. Created in Canada as an Independent Game and set in the Near Future, its fiction depends on a technology which allows specialists to enter and manipulate the memories of their patients, lending an apparent reality to their unfulfilled dreams and ambitions (see Memory Edit). Since this procedure damages the mind, it is only used on the terminally ill; its practitioners grant the last wishes of the dying.
The player participates in the game through the actions of a pair of bickering doctors, but the focus of its highly linear Interactive Narrative is their patient, an elderly man named John Wyles who is obsessed with going to the Moon, but has no idea why. As the player progresses through Wyles' mind, they discover markers which signify his most important memories, and which – after some simple puzzles have been solved – allow access to earlier, and more important, recollections. Eventually, a secret is uncovered which explicates the nature of the patient's ambition and opens a path to its fulfilment. Interestingly, the resolution conflates Space Flight with the repair of a romantic relationship; in the final draft of his memories, Wyles achieves both the love of his life and an escape from Earth in the same moment.
While the story of To the Moon is emotionally involving, with much witty (and often self-referential) banter, the game's visual presentation and much of its dialogue deliberately echo the conventions of Japanese Console Role Playing Games (see Computer Role Playing Games), which can be jarring. More fundamentally, this is a work in which there is much conversation, but few choices. The gameplay revolves around the solution of uncomplicated puzzles, and occasional short action sequences, after which the two protagonists proceed to uncover the details of Wyles' embedded backstory without much direction from the player. To the Moon is a game which is explored far more than it is one which is acted upon; significant decisions are rare, but the halls of the patient's memory palace can be roamed at will. [NT]
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