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Mood Pieces: To the Moon – The Persistence of Memory

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This installment of the Mood Pieces is about To the Moon, an adventure game from Freebird Games, available for PC and Mac.

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To the Moon is another indie game that I initially skipped although it sounded interesting since it was available only on PC. When it was included in the The Humble Indie Bundle 10 I noticed that they had a Mac port also, so I got to finally see what it was all about.

The plot of the game in short is that in the future there exist a technology of rewriting a person’s memories, but because of technical reasons it’s only done for people who are on their deathbed, to give them the memories of the life they wish they had lived, but didn’t. Johnny Wyles is dying, and his last wish was to go to the Moon. It’s the task of doctor’s Eva Rosalene and Neil Watts to enter his memories and find a way to edit them to give him this final wish.

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For me the first impression of To the Moon wasn’t too good. The game uses the kind of JRPG style pixel graphics and graphical style which doesn’t usually appeal to me, and right off the bat there was the kind of humour which usually rubs me the wrong way. As the plot started developing all this was forgotten. During the few hours this game took there was only a couple of moments when some self-referential quip was a bit annoying.

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The game is story heavy, with very little actual action, but the balance between interactive storytelling and  traditional gameplay is  pretty good. Most of the game takes place in Wyles’ memories, which the doctors need to travel through, looking for associations and mementos that can take them further back. There is a rather simple puzzle minigame where the mementoes are processed, which acts as a nice palate cleanser between the chapters of dialogue driven story. While the main characters are not eavesdropping people in Wyles’ memories, they keep up a constant banter between themselves.

About the story, if you don’t want to have any preconceptions, please stop reading at the image below and go buy the game – it’s worth your while. After the image there are a few thoughts about the plot, but no outright spoilers. Overall To the Moon’s story is deliciously convoluted and well executed. It manages to be at the same time quite out there but relatable, and the humor evens out the melodrama. The plot unfolds in an engrossing way and it will probably tug your heartstrings especially towards the end.

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To the Moon is one of those stories which have an ostensibly happy ending, except if you think about it at all, it turns out to be a totally horrible and tragic finish. What left to haunt me was the story of Wyles’ wife River, which I took to be one of understated tragedy amongst the other events depicted in Wyles’ memories. The whole story left me feeling kind of horrible and needing a hug, and I say this as praise.

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