Every so often a game comes around and leaves a mark on you like no other. For me, games such as Life is Strange, the Mass Effect trilogy, and Alan Wake have stayed with me as some of the best narratives found within the medium. While I began my playthrough of XD Network’s To the Moon, it was apparent that this too would leave a lasting impression as those that were previously mentioned. This release has users look at life through the lenses of its characters while also looking at their own. There’s something to be said about this game that can have you laugh, cry, and reflect on what makes life such a significant and precious experience through. It’s a journey filled with memories that show how life can be lived and how changing a single moment can alter your path for better or worse.

To the Moon

To the Moon‘s narrative is one that is not easily forgotten. From start to finish, you’ll quickly become emerged in the story that is being told. It begins with two doctors, Rosalene and Watts, who work in a business which gives people another chance to live. It’s a difficult procedure but the pair is able to go inside their patient’s minds and manipulate memories in order to create new ones. The two’s patient this time around is a man named, Johnny. His dying wish is to visit the moon but he doesn’t really know why. Because of this, the two doctors must work within his mind and uncover his past while also understanding the purpose behind visiting the moon. The premise is similar, in a way, to Christopher Nolan’s Inception which sees the main characters manipulate dreams. Much like that movie, this isn’t a simple cut-and-dry story where you can predict why everything is a certain way. It requires plenty of discovery and exploration in order for the user to fully understand the big picture of it all. The game’s tones and themes are deep and touch on mortality, love, family, among other topics that are sure to pull on your heartstrings. By the end of the game, I found myself thinking of my own outlooks on life and the relationships I have with others I care about. No other title has been able to truly capture this and makes this incredibly special.

Although the plot touches on topics that are rich and full of emotion, it’s not always drama left and right. There are heartwarming moments alongside bits of comedy and witty banter. The two characters that you’ll take control of have large personalities and are able to interact with one another in a meaningful way. As the story unfolds, the two talk about it as most would and sometimes mimic what you’re thinking about in regards to it all. However, the dialogue between all of the characters is executed well and feels real. This helps capture the essence of Johnny’s life while also replicating the life of anyone growing up. Reading why these two characters are where they’re at and how this experience affects them helps put it all into perspective. You truly begin to understand each character’s personas and may find yourself relating to either one or both of them.

To the Moon

One of the problems with To the Moon is its lack of gameplay mechanics. In order to progress in the story, the player must explore the environment of a specific memory to uncover mementos within it. Five need to be found and are all significant to Johnny during that event. Once the five are collected, then they can open up a link to a new memory to dive deeper into Johnny’s life. Creating this link requires some puzzle solving that is incredibly simple once you grow accustomed to it. The puzzles never become harder as time went on nor did they throw in any difficulty spikes. It’s fairly lackluster and forgettable, especially compared to other narrative-driven titles. Except for this time, it’s in the style of a 32-bit RPG. XD Network’s latest release was created with the RPG Maker engine which is primarily used for turn-based titles. However, there are no combat encounters at all in this game. It’s story-driven and completed through discovery but that isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. It enables users to fully engulf themselves in the journey that is To the Moon without worrying about a Game Over screen or challenging adversaries.

To the Moon

Not having combat or a traditional sense of gameplay is fine for this game. Having to solve intricate puzzles or defeat enemies would take the user out of the world that is being created. There is such a rich narrative at hand that you won’t necessarily want to break up the pacing. In my four hours with the game, never did I want to put the system down or do anything else. It was a constant desire to watch the story unfold how the developers saw fit. Exploring areas was never a chore, instead, they were ways to immerse yourself deeper and deeper into Johnny’s world. On the surface, the tasks may seem redundant until you begin to do so in order to keep moving forward. This desire to progress forward is constantly there yet it pays off well in the end. Other titles similar to this aren’t able to satisfy the user quite like To the Moon does. After becoming so attached to the characters and story, it’s tough to watch the credits roll and realize that’s all said and done.

To the Moon

Accompanying this game is a wonderful soundtrack composed by the game’s creator and designer, Ken Gao. His work is the perfect addition to the experience and enhances the experience at hand. Emotional moments are emphasized through the music selection. These tones all come together to make the user become encapsulated in the story much more than they already would have. This composition demands to be played with the headphones on and the volume up.  It’s the perfect contrast to the plot points found within the game and amplifies the overall atmosphere. The somber notes from the piano are sure to make you feel a range of emotions as the game continues to unwind. It perfectly executes how a musical composition should feel within a video game.

With all that being said, To the Moon remains a short experience that could be completed in one or two sittings. Its story is plenty to write home about but its gameplay not so much. Even though the gameplay isn’t that fulfilling, it does well enough to accompany the story and pacing presented. The Nintendo Switch version of the game does separate itself from the PC release by allowing touchscreen controls. Another feature included is the inclusion of the full soundtrack to listen to once the game is completed. This is a truly remarkable experience made better on the Nintendo Switch. Its themes and delivery are sure to stay with you long after the credits roll which helps make this one of the best nindies available to own.

Thank you to XD Network for providing us with a review code!

To the Moon Review (Nintendo Switch)
To the Moon has one of the best narratives seen in a video game and has a fantastic soundtrack to boot. This is one title you won't want to miss out on.
Overall Score9
  • Masterful Narrative
  • Amazing Soundtrack
  • Excellent Dialogue
  • Not Much Gameplay
  • Short Length
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)

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