Wot I Think: To The Moon


Kan Gao’s To The Moon first came to our attention thanks to Laura “Plants Vs. Zombies theme” Shigihara. (I do hope for her sake she can lose the moniker soon.) Her involvement with the game’s music got us to take a look at early footage, and then it became something I desperately wanted to play. I was right to. No surprises here – this is an incredible game, and I’m going to tell you Wot I Think it is that makes it so.

I’m a wreck. I can’t delay telling you: To The Moon is a truly wonderful game. It’s the best game I’ve played this year. It’s a pixel-graphics indie adventure, mostly made by one guy, with a preposterous premise, and yet after spending the day playing it I’m emotionally exhausted. I’m not sure whether to write a review, or curl up in the fetal position and hug a pillow.

I’m pretty terrified of describing it wrongly, and putting anyone off. Which is an odd state of mind after 12 years of this silly job. So I’ll do the traditional, and give you the premise:

At some point in the future, there exists a technology that allows people to backtrack through a person’s memories, such that they can create a complex timeline of their past, and implant new memories that create others, which create others still, that allows a person’s wishes to be fulfilled. Albeit only in their memory, since the events never took place. It’s a service that’s provided, by the company involved here at least, to those who are dying. It’s granting a dying wish, without the patient having to get out of their bed.

There are two characters controlled as you play, Drs Eva Rosalene and Neil Watts, frequently alternating between the two, although they’re almost always together. They arrive at the house of an elderly man named John, who has recently fallen into a coma, and has only a day or so to live. His dying wish, as arranged with the company when he was more healthy, was the visit the moon. Why, he doesn’t know, but that’s what he wants to have done.

John lost his wife, River, two years back. Since then he’s been living with a home help and her two children, and feeling pretty bereft. But the only way you’re going to encounter John is through simulacra constructed within his own memories, which is where you’ll spend the majority of the game.

But before you get there, there’s so much more background here. The arrival of the two doctors begins with a car crash, as Neil swerves to avoid a squirrel and plants the car firmly into a tree. From this point on kicks off the banter between the two that will accompany you throughout. Neil is brash, unsentimental, and can’t miss an opportunity for a joke. (When told “too soon” he replies, “It’s never soon enough.”) Eva is officious but gentle, keen to spot romance in a situation. Their non-stop jibing of each other quickly demonstrates a very believable years-long friendship, and also establishes the game’s early focus on comedy. A focus that’s going to shift.

The process by which the memory implantation works is somewhat contrived. A construct of the person’s most recent memories is created, and from that space you must find five objects that are distinctively remembered by the patient. Once found you’ll be able to use a more significant memory, usually a personal object, to link back to an earlier memory. Which more or less involves going around a scene and clicking on objects. Although it’s not nearly that facile. This is all accompanied by the game’s excellent writing, as well as the discovery of the importance of those items, and the roles they play in a narrative that’s going to be spelled out to you backward. Once the key object is unlocked, you then (for some reason) have to solve a simple tile-reversing puzzle, and can then travel to the next memory. I’m not sure why those puzzles are in the game, but they’re innocuous enough, and aren’t going to trouble anyone.

To tell a story backward requires great skill. (Obviously it’s the written law of the universe that one must mention Memento at this point.) It’s an inevitably muddling experience for the player, so to keep things feeling like they’re flowing forward, while only ever travelling backward, demonstrates some remarkable writing talent. From the start of the game you’re presented with unexplained themes, such as the locked basement room in John’s house that’s filled with white origami rabbits. And the one other paper rabbit, the one that’s blue and white. (Which just thinking about now makes me sniffle a little.) There’s the confusion of elements of John and River’s relationship, suggestions of illness, awkward, hurtful secrets, and atmospheres of regret. As you jump back through John’s lifetime, the puzzle pieces start to fall into place. But what’s perhaps best about this game’s story is how much is left for you to fathom for yourself.

Not in that, “It’s for you to decide” bullshit way, that so many writers lazily fall back on. But rather, because in each memory all the participants but you have the prior knowledge, they speak in such a way that you’re left scrabbling to fill in the gaps. The further you get, the more is confirmed, but all the way through you’re left room for your own interpretations, sometimes later confirmed, sometimes left ambiguous. The result is a game that constantly feels like it’s respecting your intelligence, even though it later fills in the gap. For the whole game I guessed at the significance of that blue and white rabbit. River, in one of John’s most recent memories, had pleaded with him to understand its deeper meaning, and he couldn’t work it out. I noted down at the time, “The agony of the meaning of the rabbit.” By its eventual reveal, well, I was broken.

So yes, if I can be unpleasantly self-indulgent for a moment, I do have something of a reputation for crying at games. It’s a reputation that’s not really earned. I can think of two games that have ever made me cry, and have a nagging suspicion that there’s a third I’m forgetting. In 30 years of playing games, it’s not a common factor for me. But add another to the list. I sobbed twice during To The Moon. And then a third time when I told my wife why. I share this information in the knowledge that I’m underlining the endless teasing the follows, because I think it’s crucial to explain why To The Moon is quite so significantly good. I don’t want to tell you anything of the story beyond those opening scenes I’ve described, so letting you know quite how moving it becomes is excellent short-hand. In fact, I think the most recent teaser trailer for the game does an excellent job of capturing the overall mood.

None of those scenes are in the game, by the way. But that turn, that moment when things feel different, that’s something the game keeps achieving over and again. To do it once is impressive – to be able to shift the mood from silliness to heart-wrenching sadness so many times demonstrates incredible skill. And it sustains this for a long time. The game lasts a decent five hours.

To The Moon takes on old age, regret, mental health, and love. It’s about the role of ambition versus reality, and what’s worth sacrificing. It’s a properly funny comedy, and a hanky-requiring tragedy. Games this effective are rare beasts, and when it’s disguised by such simple graphics (albeit with wonderful animation, and such detail), old-school Japanese RPG presentation (something it brilliantly jokes about very early on), no voice acting, nor photo-realistic expressions, it’s something of a feat. What it does have, however, is incredible music by creator Gao, including a perfectly used piano refrain that so brilliantly scores much of the game. When there’s so much meaning to be found just in the choice of notes used in the music, you know you’re onto something special. And at the end there’s a song by Laura Shigihara. (Oh, and in my first post about the game I made a snide remark about wishing one game’s theme didn’t have a single strain of a violin in it. I’d just like to say that I’m a wrong idiot, since a single strain of a violin caused my second bout of sobbing – its use was extraordinary.)

To The Moon is incredibly special. I implore people to play it.


  1. sneetch says:

    “I implore people to play it.”


    Oh all right then, I thought this one was intriguing after the last article, this one seals the deal.

  2. Symitri says:

    I was waiting for this WiT to come out and it’s absolutely correct in every sense. People need to play this game, for so many different reasons!

  3. wiper says:

    I’m sold – purchased and downloading now. You’d just better not be as wrong about this as you were about the latter-half of The Longest Journey, Mr. Walker.

    *shakes fist in vaguely threatening manner*

  4. Vexing Vision says:

    I read the article. I clicked on the “play it”-Link. I clicked on “Get the full version”. I gulped a bit at the 12€ price-tag, which instead of making me buy it unseen makes me ask this: Is there any replay value? (I assume there’s no plot-branching whatsoever, but the story sounds interesting enough to give it a “reread”.)

    • John Walker says:

      There are moments when you can make choices. Although I’ve only played it once through, so I’m not certain how much difference they’d make.

    • Vexing Vision says:

      Alright, alright. Bought the game, just to give Rock Paper Shotgun the SELLING POWER you guys deserve.

      Also, it’s been a brilliant article.

    • Smashbox says:

      It’s $12 in the US, so you can save 3 Euros if you buy it that way. Somehow.

  5. bear912 says:

    Oh my, this looks lovely.

  6. MiniMatt says:

    I really must start paying attention to game narratives again. I guess I’ve gotten so used to “yeah yeah, exposition ahoy, great evil, planet doomed, only you can save, yeah yeah just point me in the direction of who I have to kill….. oh, no, wait, first I must kill ten rats / retrieve your spurious plot device”. Lately I find myself just clicking through dialogue so much of the time.

    As so spookily predicted in school reports all those years ago, I really must try harder.

  7. Revisor says:

    Thank you very much for the WIT, sir.
    I’m very interested in a meaningful story, which seems so rare in games where story and dialogs are outsourced to programmers and/or project managers.

  8. Jarmo says:

    Sold. Thanks for the heads-up! The regular unearthing of gems like this is one of the primary reasons to read Rock, Paper, Shotgun for me.

  9. merc-ai says:

    Sounds interesting, but not my style of gameplay and the story is too sad, I’m afraid. Oh, these indie games and their sad stories!
    But somehow, this WiT made me want to replay Bastion again (which isn’t a cheerful story either).

    • Berzee says:

      True about Bastion — but it’s a story told in a very life-loving optimistic manner, if you know what I mean. (I mean optimistic not in the “everything will be all right” sense, but rather in the “there is goodness here in life to relish” sense).

      I will keep “To The Moon” in mind for when I want a violin-string story — but right now (after the long discussion on Cheerful Games on the forum) it’s fiddle-strings I’m wanting. =)

    • IDtenT says:

      I don’t know Berzee. It seems like some kind of myth to most people, but crying makes you feel good. Not bad. I’d put it even higher than laughing tbh. There is nothing as feel good in this world as a good cry.

  10. deadfolk says:

    Very interested in this. The one question I have is the dreaded…

    does it have DRM?

    • deadfolk says:

      Bastards. I knew it!

    • Durkonkell says:

      Can’t developers see that this is unfair to end users? So what, they think people never want to play games during a power cut? Not all of us have ‘always on’ electricity you know!

    • Reives says:

      It’s not an ill consideration; it’s a feature.

      But in all seriousness, the DRM is set to hassle-free – just enter the code and you’re set for life.

  11. The Sombrero Kid says:

    will give it a bash

  12. Kdansky says:

    Just bought Bastion, Voxatron Bundle and Dungeon Defenders. Now I have to get this one too. I do not have enough time to play them!!!

    • c-Row says:

      You think you have problems? I just bought Terraria over the weekend…

    • Belua says:

      You think you two have problems? I still haven’t finished Dragon Age and The Witcher, the sequels already there but unused as of yet. Also on my yet-to-finish-pile are Deus Ex HR, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Mass Effect 2, Battlefield 3 and several bazillion other games that Steam sales, Humble Bundles and similar events forced me to buy. Sometimes I hate having a job.

    • Jharvis says:


      could be me…

    • HeavyStorm says:

      I think I’ll give up sleeping…

    • TheGameSquid says:

      Actually, I have PRECISELY 298 games still left to complete.

      That is no joke, but an exact number. Yeah, I should probably get a life.

    • Belua says:

      @TheGameSquid: No, you should get rid of your life. Else you’ll never be able to decrease this number.

    • Fomorian1988 says:

      @ TheGameSquid: O_o And I thought I had it bad with 80 games unfinished (including this one)!

  13. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    This sounds very interesting! Part of next weekend is now reserved for this.

  14. caddyB says:

    I will not buy this on the basis of I don’t like crying. It makes me feel vulnerable. Otherwise it seems to be great.

  15. Kamen Rider says:

    Do I HAVE to go to the moon? Can I decide to spend my time playing more video games instead?

    • Saldek says:

      Going to the moon builds character. You can play when you come back.

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      Branson should team up with one of those ARG ‘catch the geotagged critters’ type games so that there are some you can only get if you’re in space. Super exclusive pokemon starry-void edition!

  16. Lambchops says:

    Adds another adventure game to the list of advenutre games I need to play, which stood at zero but a few weeks ago and now stands at about 3 or 4 thanks to Mr Walker’s recent WiT’s.

  17. brooklyn67 says:

    AAAAaaaand this is why I read this blog’s feed every day. Got about half way through the post and stopped because I don’t want anything spoiled,still saw something about crying…couldn’t be helped, bought the game and installed it for later today.
    I never played these point and click adventures, except for Myst, way back, but the whole “Games as Storytelling Medium” thing just gets more and more intriguing.

    • John Walker says:

      I promise there are no spoilers in this. I was very careful.

    • Juan Raigada says:

      I hope that seventh paragraph isn’t giving anything away about the ending, or I’m going to feel very frustrated once I play this…

    • SparroHawc says:

      I doubt it, since as mentioned, you need to perform those actions for each memory as you travel back through them. It’s simply a gameplay mechanic, not a spoiler. Now, if he’d said why the old man wants to visit the moon, that would probably be a spoiler.

    • Juan Raigada says:

      That’s the eight paragraph, I was referring to the previous one, specially if swerving to avoid the squirrel and hitting the tree with the car has any narrative significance…

  18. michal.lewtak says:

    The question is, how will I play this without thinking about Arnold Schwarzenegger all the time.

    • vivlo says:

      it does also make me think of what Inception could have been, if it were done cleverly.

    • Kieron W says:

      At risk of kicking the hornet’s nest, I thought Inception was pretty clever…

    • Saldek says:

      Inception did seem to have the cleverness angle covered quite well. Perhaps it was a tad less heart-warming than To The Moon?

  19. Inigo says:

    I do have something of a reputation for crying at games. It’s a reputation that’s not really earned.

    You’re really more of a “screams like a little girl” type.

  20. sonofsanta says:

    I have too many games already, and too little money, but when you and Kuchera agree on a game with this level of fervent adoration, I should just get on with it and buy it really, shouldn’t I?

    Says a lot about me that no matter how cheap it goes, I will never buy Amnesia because I don’t want to put myself through the arduous emotional journey I know it will, but I will gladly jump into something that will depress and upset me. Gleefully so, infact.

  21. Shazbut says:

    Japanese RPG presentation is de rigueur for games that set out to move you because that’s what they do a lot of over there. Hell, they even have the term “nakige”, which means “crying game”.

    Anyway, thanks for the heads up. Will buy.

  22. Temple says:

    John can I just say, or sing “Don’t go changing, a single thing…”

    Reflecting Minimatt’s comment above, I don’t have the patience for slow scrolling narrative anymore -it was actually 2D JRPGs which broke me in that regard. I’m happy to read MMO questlines or chat with nonsensical npcs, but a click to talk thing that then has the dialogue scroll onto the screen I do not have the patience for.

    I love the trailers and gameplay though and think I’d pay to watch a playthrough (you know wihout people’s comments over the top)

  23. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    Sold! He had me with the last trailer anyway, so this verdict merely reinforces my purchasing decision.

    Also, it’s only $12, which is about half of what I expected to be (and, annoyingly, also half of what I spent earlier this week on the mostly rubbish Voxatron).

    • Wulf says:

      It’s times like this that I wish developers would all adopt the “Here is the default price, but you can pay me more if you want.” solution. See, then I’d buy from the developers more. And they could even have sales and the odd Pay What You Want deal. The thing for me though is that it would allow me to pay over the average if I felt that a game deserved it.

    • T4ffer says:

      [edit] uh, sorry, replied in the wrong place

  24. sana says:

    Selling RPG Maker games with resources taken from other people and commercial games for actual money! The nerve…

    • Reives says:

      Hi Sana, this is Kan from Freebird. Through the years in development, I have acquired permission from the artists whose resources were used, such as Kieara Phoenix, Sithjester, Wyatt, Ccoa, and the like — they are also all included in the ending credit. Lastly, RMXP’s license permits commercial venture by default.

      Hope that clears up the misunderstanding!

    • John Walker says:

      I do so love it when people make such libelous accusations without any evidence! It makes me so happy. Good work, sana.

    • blind_boy_grunt says:

      also for the xcom/ufo door sounds? ;)

    • Muzman says:

      Don’t forget the footsteps from Thief et al.

      (probably found in link to sound-ideas.com among others. Self reply ninjah)

    • SenorKaffee says:

      For the resources – don’t forget that certain sounds are not always from a certain game, but from a sound CD. Many XCOM/UFO sounds and DOOM sounds are taken more or less 1:1 from the Sound Ideas series

    • Mctittles says:

      I’m nearly certain the crowd from Roller Coaster Tycoon is in Mission Impossible 1 when he is at the races. I’ve heard that loop so many times and that kid yell sounds exactly the same.

  25. Tirs says:

    Purchased – thanks John, this wasnt even on my radar until this post. I need something to balance out my current diet of BF3 manshooting and this looks like the perfect thing

  26. Eddy9000 says:

    Oh go on, what were the other two games that made you cry John?

    (and if you’re a cryer for gods sake dont watch ‘up’; I prize myself on my stoicism and had floods of tears pouring out from behind my 3D specs aftetwards)

    • frenz0rz says:

      I’m gonna guess The Longest Journey and Dreamfall. Since, y’know, its John Walker.

      And, well, I may have sort of cried playing them as well. Just a little bit.

    • Wulf says:

      Ah, games that made us feel? Okay, here’s a good topic. For John Walker I’m sure it was probably Ragnar’s games. For me? Something a little different.

      Mask of the Betrayer was the one that got me most, I think. It still strikes me as one of the most emotionally charged games I’ve played, throughout the history of gaming that I’ve experienced. The words of Gann and Okku, their sadness, their joys, and eventually their triumphs. There was whimpering, and once or twice I shed tears of joy.

      Another was New Vegas. I think the most heart crushing thing about that game was Lily. Oh Lily. I couldn’t save her, you know? No matter what I had her do, it was impossible. All I could do was select the option that had the most promise, and hope beyond hope that one day she’d find peace, and without losing her entire sense of being, along with all of her memories. That was a tough choice.

      Obsidian games get me, I suppose. They always do.

      I know I’m too emotional for my own good (can’t help that, actually can’t) and those games are as bad as certain films which just tug on the heart strings. Gods I felt sad about Lily, and yet hopeful.

      Beautiful stuff.

  27. blind_boy_grunt says:

    so, played the demo and couldn’t stop playing. Than the demo stopped me from playing by just shutting down. And i didn’t save once. Does anyone know if they have some kind of autosave, because i was all ready to buy this game and finish it, but if i play a whole hour again of a six hour game i’m not so sure.

  28. epoxy putty says:

    Having played the demo and not the full game, I may be wrong, but I couldn’t stand the writing nor the way characters speak. The two doctors are the worst offenders, since their constant childish bickering grows old in about 2 minutes and I suppose you have to endure it for the rest of the game. Halfway in the demo there was a huge meta moment (with Rosalene) that was totally uncalled for and ruined any kind of mood the game was trying to set.
    Hopefully the game gets better after the first hour, but the demo “unsold” the game for me. And it’s a shame, since I really liked the idea behind this.

    • Wulf says:

      I may have a counterpoint to this, as the imaginative sort that I am.

      You’re dealing with doctors here that specifically shape dreams, they likely didn’t make the equipment, and they have only the most basic understanding of its operation, but specifically they’re more writers or actors than doctors. They’re there to remake a mind. To even think that you have the balls to do that, you have to have some kind of crazy imagination and probably the wonder of a child to go with it.

      I could probably do it!

      The thing is though is that people whom are creatively charged often wear their hearts on their sleeves, they can be meta, crazy, and emotional. But what goes on in their minds, oh if only you could see it, it makes your day to day reality look so dull and grey that you might as well be living in an uninspired noir film. People like that are reshaping this person’s mind. They’re not the most professional, but they have an unending stream of ideas from a veritable Font of Making, the most magical sauce of all flavourful magical sauces.

      You have someone like that, or a couple of someones like that, running around inside a person’s head, and trying to turn their duldrum reality into something as magnificent, incredible, brilliant, and beautiful as only they could imagine. But they’re not perfect, they’re human, they’re human creators. Of course they’re going to bitch and bicker, like every creative person does. That’s because mostly they’ll spend more time with their own ideas than they will with other people, and with other people and ideas? I can’t imagine that’ll do, it’s just not cricket!

      I know that if I were trying to remake a mind into a shining gem of amazing experiences, heart warming, charming, and dripping with the utterly fantastic, then I’d probably have different ideas about how to go about it than they would. Sure, we’d be working together, but there would be friction. There’s friction and at least a small amount of drama in every creative circle. See, people who make things of the sort aren’t so much a well oiled machine.

      So what happens is that you need to inspire the next person with your notions and constructs, you need to sell it to them, you need to be the old, crazy-haired storyteller next to the fire, weaving a yarn to a bunch of kids, you need to enthrall them. Sometimes it just takes a while for a creative person to realise that they need to do this, or to gather the effort to want to do this.


      Anyway, these so-called ‘professors?’ I’d find it more jarring if they didn’t do the things you were complaining about! Think about it and you may see it my way and enjoy the game more, or you may not and you won’t. Either or.

    • epoxy putty says:

      Er… yeah… I still dislike those two, though. And not because of them not being “professor-like”. I just find them uninteresting and annoying characters. From the demo, at least.
      BTW, I was referring to the silly battle scene when talking about meta moments.

    • Wulf says:

      Sure, the battle scene is meta. But if I’m trying to give someone the perfect, the most fantastic, and the entirely romantic life they’d hoped for, I’d pull out all the stops and delve a little into fantasy, too. And he admits, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

      I don’t know, to me, they seem like the people who’d do this kind of job.

  29. roBurky says:

    I was enjoying the demo, but then just moments before my 1 hour trial was up, a particular word was used that massively increased my interest in this game, and suggested a potential for the story having additional personal relevance to me. I’m buying it right now.

    • roBurky says:

      It didn’t disappoint in that respect.

    • Vorrin says:

      heh, I didn’t actually know that word, and wondered for a while whether it was some futuristic ‘medical’ term, so I got to understand what was going on probably a good half an hour after you.

      And now I even forgot the damn word -_-

  30. Obc says:

    so is this the “Eternal Sunhine on a spotless Mind” of video games? as weird and heart warming?

    • Vorrin says:

      Of course being a memory travelling thing it does have some similitudes.

      Does run way the heck deeper and heavier than that though, and I personally also found the funny moments way funnier.

  31. Wulf says:

    I knew what this review was going to say even before I read it, it was just so obvious to me that there was so much love and passion that had gone into the development of this game that it couldn’t be anything but, and if it hadn’t lived up to it and John had slammed it, then I would’ve been too deeply disappointed to even bother considering. So it had to succeed. Something that looked as beautiful as this, a really obvious labour of love, had to succeed.

    And you can tell a labour of love when you see it, can’t you? I don’t get that from a good number of games out there. Sure, they’re impressive, technically and artistically, but they feel like work. Just work. There’s an apparent lack of personality and individuality there that would give it its own being. It’s just a thing, and it will sit as a thing amongst many other things as just a thing. It’s probably going to be entertaining, I don’t doubt that, but at the end of the day, it’s just another face in the crowd. It’s like the party animal whom you find is completely shallow beyond their scripted party antics. (Which were probably scripted by the person you’d really like to meet.)

    There are a few developers out there that I love for making truly personal games, where you can sense the amount of romance surrounding them, that these are things are well loved dreams plucked from the minds of a person, or a group of persons, and turned into something that I can walk through. One of my favourite examples of this is Uru, which was the epitome of Cyan Wolds’ beauty when it comes to environments. It’s almost unmatched. Each Age you stroll through is its own character, and a work of art.

    I relish games like that, I look forward to them. Why? They give me memories. See, the party animal is eminently forgettable, sure, they might have been amusing in an air-headed sort of way, bubbly, and funny. But at the end of the night, you don’t really remember the jokes, you’re not sure why you were so intoxicated by them, and you wonder just how drunk you were to even be entertained in the first place. It’s something that slips from the mind. But when you find someone who’s truly eccentric, a storied and travelled person whose mind has been shaped by countless events, anything that happens with them tends to leave you with a parade of interesting memories.

    And speaking of games as persons, I want to think that this game, as John has painted it, is one such person. Sure, it might be flawed in certain ways, but who wants perfection anyway? Not me. What I want are things I’ll remember. I’m not interested in wasting my life, so I want to experiences that will cling to my mind and have me thinking about them, pondering about them, and rolling around in my feelings for a good time afterwards, perhaps even never really leaving. I suspected from the outset that this might be one of those games.

    So I look forward to playing it, and seeing what it has for me, and what I’ll remember about it. The poetic thing, the special thing that amuses me so, I suppose, is that this is a game about memories.

  32. Wulf says:



    *** Wulf mauls the comments system.

    (There are stern, stern stares going on about how broken this is! Well, not that broken, but I hate worrying that a massive post I’ve just written up has disappeared into the aether.)

  33. Eric says:

    Awesome article and an awesome game.

    A correction, though (because I made the same mistake talking about the game and got corrected) – the wonderful music is by Kan Gao.

    Laura Shigihara contributed (I’m unclear on what parts, I think she did vocals and wrote one song?), but she apparently didn’t compose [most of] it.

    Shigi’s fantastic, but Kan ought to get credit for his score.

    • John Walker says:

      I’ve fixed that now.

    • Brandon says:

      I believe Miss Shigihara wrote and composed the piano song you hear during the game’s climax, as well as the lyrical part of the 1st trailer’s theme. She might have contributed other things as well, but that’s what I know based on what she and the developer have mentioned. Here’s the youtube version of the song she contributed:

    • Matt says:

      Surely you meant Laura “Tapped Out” Shigihara, right?

    • AliceK says:

      Actually, the music was done by both Gao and Shigihara (it says so in the game credits as well as the FBgames’ bandcamp page). Gao did most of the music, but Shigihara wrote/composed “Everything’s Alright” as well as contributing 3-4 other tracks on the soundtrack, so please make sure to credit both composers.

  34. sassy says:

    *sigh* this really sounded like my thing, went to the website to buy, clicked the buy link … plimus. I can’t stand plimus, so until they offer a better way of purchasing, unfortunately no sale.

    • Wulf says:

      You know, I’m betting they could ask Wolfire to lend them some of their Humble Bundle order processing code. I think the Indie Royale did that, looking at how their stuff is set up, either that or their service is incredibly derivative.

      But yeah, I mean, not only would this work, but it would allow people to pay over the average if they wanted. (And I bet Wolfire would help them, they’re incredibly nice guys. Too nice, sometimes, but it’s why I think so highly of them. And it never comes over as fake niceness, either, which I’m glad of since I’ve had enough of that.)

    • Reives says:

      I’m personally not too fond of Plimus either, but I was pulling an all-nighter the night before the release to set things up, and most of the affiliates used it and I had to at least register to connect with them. I’m thinking of switching to BMT micro soon.

      The Wolfire/Indie Royale system would be fantastic, though I have no idea where to begin with setting up such a system at the moment, heheh. Once the dust settles, I’ll look into these.

    • Wulf says:

      I think it’s pretty damn awesome that you hang around the comments thread and chat with us about these things. Really, good for you. I wish more developers did that.

      I’m glad you’re considering other options though. As I mentioned below (hadn’t seen this at the time), I’m having some issues with Plimus. I want to give you money! Even more than you’ve asked for. :p But at this moment I cannot.

    • T4ffer says:

      It’s also on Desura, and even cheaper there for some reason:

      link to desura.com

  35. Juan Carlo says:

    This looks intriguing. Or at least judging from that screenshot, which suggests that one of the old guy’s dying unfulfilled wishes was getting anal sex in the the lighthouse.

    That’s an unfulfilled life fantasy I can totally get behind helping him out with.

    • blind_boy_grunt says:

      that’s really generous of you. But imo you shouldn’t be willing to bend over for every sad story you hear, this might be abused by some people.

  36. IDtenT says:

    Today the gaming industry had hit maturity.

    Sure, it may be manipulative – think Seven Pounds – but by God is it good. I mean. It’s a game. I cried at a freaking game. This just hasn’t been in the realm of gaming ever. I very rarely feel anything for the characters in games. This really was beautiful.

    My fondest entertainment industry has churned out art. At last.

    • Shazbut says:

      I’m happy you were affected. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there are games like this out there and have been for years. They just aren’t made in the West so you don’t hear about them, even if they get translated.

    • IDtenT says:

      Oh, I don’t doubt that. The thing is Japanese games just don’t stick with me. Probably mostly because I’m a PC gamer. I dunno. I’ve played Japanese things here and there, but as far as popular stuff goes it leaves a lot to be desired.

  37. RagingLion says:

    You have just made me tremendously excited to play this game. I’ve got the same kind of nervous chills I got when anticipating playing Braid while reading this article. This is want from games – exactly this kind of thing. Need to play this now to make sure the gushing isn’t without substance.

  38. cptgone says:

    sounds like another great find.
    if it wasn’t for the good writing, i’d stop reading RPS and just hand you guys my credit card ;)

  39. Emeraude says:

    I hate you.

    I really do.

    I so *must* play this. But not tonight…

  40. Wulf says:

    Blargh. I want this but Plimus keeps timing out.

    Here’s hoping Freebird sets up a different payment method.

  41. Urthman says:

    Normally I find anime or JRPG art styles a big turn-off, but I have to admit this looks beautiful. Maybe it’s the color scheme? Maybe the artwork is just really good? I don’t know, but it’s very attractive and that coupled with John’s review has me convinced to get this and put it fairly high up on my TO PLAY list.

  42. SirDimos says:

    Just finished the game, and I don’t want to say anything other than I agree with everything John said.

  43. Keirley says:

    Read the Wot I Think then scrolled down expecting to find a comment angrily saying ‘you only wrote this article to mention that you have a wife’. I’ve got to admit I’m a little taken aback in its absence, RPS.

    Thanks for the review John, this sounds absolutely fascinating. I’ll definitely be picking it up.

  44. oceanclub says:

    “simple tile-reversing puzzle”

    *weep* OK, I guess I’m really simple, but I’m stuck on the first one.


  45. lobsterentropy says:

    While I absolutely adore the music, graphics, and overarching story, at about half an hour to an hour in, I’m finding the dialogue really stilted and kind of annoying. I can’t say I found the interactions between the doctors particularly realistic or convincing, and stuff like the out-of-place Hadouken joke really missed the mark. To be honest, if you cut out the male doctor, I’d like the game a lot more since his dialogue is by far the weakest part of the game. I’ll echo the guy from earlier who asked “How did this guy get hired?”

    Belly-aching aside, I find myself desperately wanting to learn more about the story of Johnny and can’t wait to keep playing.

  46. Vorrin says:

    Mr Walker, I salute you.

    I saw this review, and preferring to avoid any possible spoiler, as I often do in case of story-based games, I skipped to the last paragraph, and was intrigued by this mention of tears.

    So I got the game, and proceeded to play it in one sitting, just finished about 20 minutes ago, and then decided to read the whole review too.

    I fell in love with the game too, I cried too (a first for me, and I played pretty much everything this side of the 1990), and I found your review wonderful, you managed to describe and express very well why this game is as great as it is without spoiling absolutely nothing, and instead choosing your themes very well (also, having been through it, I much appreciated the slight hint at the game’s early jap-rpg self-irony).

    It is exactly when such things happen that make me love RPS the most.
    Thanks a lot.

  47. Sardukar says:

    Fun so far. I have the music in the background. And I like the mouthy Dr. Watts. So nyah.

  48. lumenadducere says:

    Got and finished the game today, and I am so glad I did. It had some flaws, sure, and I thought the ending bit was a little predictable, but ye gods was it a well-crafted ride. I don’t get emotionally worked up at games, and have often stared in curiosity when people have mentioned finding certain moments in other games touching. But that single violin note that John mentioned…when it hit, I actually got choked up. I’m a sucker for well-integrated music, and that was phenomenally done and a perfect capstone.

    Definitely worth playing, and it’s likely going to stick with me for quite a while. I eagerly await any future episodes.

  49. lumenadducere says:

    Gah, my comment seems to have been nommed. Just wanted to say I agree, especially about the violin note. I usually don’t get emotionally worked up at games, but that moment actually had me choked up a bit as well.

    Although I’m feeling a bit dense now, as I seem to have completely missed the meaning of the blue-and-yellow rabbit. I hesitate to ask, but anyone care to mention it in a responding comment? Heavily marked as a spoiler, of course! Do not want to give anything away to anyone who has yet to play it.

    • Dom_01 says:


      The blue and yellow rabbit, I think, was River’s way of reminding John about the first time they met. John thought that the first time they met was at school, since he forgot his first meeting with her back when they were children, in the fair.

      Because of River’s mental illness, she had trouble communicating to John about the time that they stargazed together. So after he tells her about the first time they met she starts making the paper rabbits to try and remind him.

      She made a completely yellow rabbit, the yellow representing the moon, which he did not understand at all. This is why she makes a blue and yellow paper rabbit, the blue representing the night sky and the yellow representing the moon.

      If you wonder why she didn’t just tell him, remember that in the game a doctor gives them a book describing the illness, written by Tony Attwood. This author is a real person, and you can search him on Google to know what River had.


    • Coren says:


      But but but! The blue and yellow of River’s dress on her wedding day! Surely that’s a better link than the blue and yellow of the moon in a night sky? I think that’s what the colours are referring to, and it makes the whole thing just a bit more tragic, since it’s a reference to something Johnny should have been able to recall, yet he didn’t get it, leaving River all alone and desperate… T_T

  50. Vurogj says:

    Just finished, and want to echo both the review, and the vast majority of commenters, this is something very special indeed.
    Thanks to John and all of you for the complete absence of spoilers, much appreciated.

    And yes, I cried a great deal.