[Review] To the Moon
'To the Moon' tells the story of an old man whose wish is to travel to the Moon. Or rather was, because his death is approaching. Nevertheless, his wish can be granted retroactively inside his memories by two scientists and their memory-reading&rewriting machine. They can't do this just by pressing a button, and must travel into the old man's memories from senescence to childhood, and find a way to embed his wish in his earliest memories. But it wouldn't be so easy, and sometimes memory-rewriting is a morally devious matter.
Actually, 'To the Moon' wouldn't exactly be considered a game. There is nothing to kill, no numbers to boost, no void to fall into when you miss the platform, and not even an actual challenge in terms of finding the path for the story to continue, as an adventure game that I thought it would be. 'To the Moon' is rather an interactive narrative which could not perform better as anything else.
Almost every game designed for its story understands the basic concept of engaging the player in the narrative by making her participate in it, sometimes in the form of decisions. In the case of 'To the Moon' there are no choices to make, because the path that is laid out for you is the only way --or most effective, if you wish-- the story could be written to convey what it does. And it conveys it superbly. Had this game been a book it would miss on a feature that no reader ever encounters in traditional literature: that of the struggle of the player. I don't mean the challenge of mastering the mechanics of the game, although that could add to the experience of struggle. I think of it as the experience of working against the narrative to follow a course that the story seems to be/is abandoning. A better example of this will come in a later post on 'Bastion'.
'To the Moon' did this, but also it engaged you with its story by making you responsible for it, the agent of the changes that you are observing. That is why those changes have the power to affect you so deeply, if you let them. I won't tell you more, I want you to try it yourself. I recommend this "game" wholeheartedly.
When I finished with this game I had the urge to search for the soundtrack right away. I learnt later that the game had been finalist in sound category at last year's Independent Game Festival, that's how good it was. But this search had a collateral effect - the music was amazing, yes, but the truly stunning thing is that everybody under youtube comments praised the game, no trolls to be seen. There were lots of comments concerning the amount of tears involved in the playthrough, often to the detriment of the player's virility. In a society in which insensitivity are valued (mostly in the male), to see so many players been able to engage in a delicate story and discard their indifference was uplifting and faith-restoring.