Have You Played… To The Moon?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Truthfully, I don’t remember all the ins and outs of To The Moon’s [official site] lackadaisical storytelling, but perhaps that is funny in itself, considering how important decaying memory is to the tale. But the enduring feeling of the game is one of wistful melancholy. Is “wistful melancholy” a thing? Yes, it is. If RPS was to have a list feature titled “Ten Games Wot Made Us Somewhat Lumpy-Throated”, this game would surely hang within the upper echelons.

The player controls two doctors who work for a company that will re-engineer a dying person’s memory to relieve them of their biggest regrets. Sauntering backwards through the memories of their latest patient, Johnny, you discover a painful, touching story of loss and love. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the obvious comparison, but To The Moon has a character all of its own.

While it is an essentially sad tale, it never forgets to lighten the mood between major scenes. It’s a tactic that could so easily be jarring or off-putting and yet Freebird Games manages to come out of it smelling sweeter than a bag of Jolly Ranchers. This is mood-swingy storytelling at its best.

29 Comments

  1. melnificent says:

    It works as a coop game. The person that is crying the least gets to control the game.

    • thedosbox says:

      That would be appropriate given the mechanics of controlling your character were finicky and annoying. Both people get to battle different emotions.

      • Jeroen D Stout says:

        What a bundle of joy you are!

        • thedosbox says:

          Oh, I cried like most people who played the game did, and appreciated the game for being able to trigger that emotion.

          But the controls? They can get in the sea.

  2. Tei says:

    World worst find hidden objects games. But this is a clinical description. Maybe is the most awesome game in the world, but I failed to get into it.

    • SomeDuder says:

      Ehh, it takes some effort, yea. It’s a bit too self-referential, especially at the start, and the “omg I crie evrytiem!!1” nonsense that you read in articles about is nonsense. And its a great ad for RPG Maker.

      But once you get into it, its a nice story and has descent music. Worth it, at a discounted price.

      • Xeshor says:

        Decent music? That’s a great understatement imo. The music is what makes the game for me. Would still be a pretty good story without it, but all the emotion comes from the music. I still listen to it regularly to this day, it just makes me feel good. I probably wouldn’t have finished the game without it/ if it wasn’t this good.

    • manny says:

      lol, so silly you don’t play with a guide. Just use a guide and when your get remotely bored you read the guide and get through the ‘puzzle’. The story in Too the Moon is quite good as is the art, but the puzzles are a bore.

  3. tsubaki says:

    I’ve gotten emotional over books, movies and games.

    But this one, I couldn’t get shed an ounce of care for. The writing is sloppy and inconsistent. The characters are both one-dimensional AND annoying. And the whole tear-fest pushing seemed really contrived. I honestly don’t get it.

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      basilisk says:

      Sometimes these things just fail to click for no obvious reason. I could say the same thing about the much-lauded Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, for example, which left me completely cold, yet I did tear up during To The Moon. It just requires being on the right emotional wave, I suppose, which I’m aware is a very nebulous and completely useless concept.

      • Geebs says:

        Brothers did a couple of things which made it hard for me to get emotionally attached. First was that the kids kind of screw over a lot of the characters they meet along the way. Second was an almost Kojima-level “hey developers, what the hell is it with you and women?” thing. It’s a good game mechanically, but it’s kind of icky.

        Not that To The Moon did anything for me either, I found it rather trite.

        I still think the high water mark for “games that try to have involving plots and relatable characters” was PoP Sands of Time, and nothing has ever really come close – everything since has by comparison been overly grimdark, twee, or just plain over-written.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Completely disagree, the writing is a brilliant mixture of a blasé humor shell coating a deep and rich look into a condition that does not have much coverage in popular media, creating a healthy juxtaposition of framing device and subject matter. The characters are far from one dimensional and whilst the short run time doesn’t exactly allow all of them to be explored fully, motivations and hidden agendas are liberally present for both the framing device and “main” characters.

      Not to mention the music which is brilliantly composed as to accent the events of the story.

  4. neoncat says:

    “Ten Games Wot Made Us Somewhat Lumpy-Throated” sounds like an excellent idea. :)

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    Risingson says:

    This game offended me. It is not only shallow in gameplay, in which case, meh, don’t mind, but its pornographic content in they way it scratches your eyes to pull all your tears using the most shameful resources is something that should have never been accepted by journalists who are supposed to be a bit more mature than that. This is the equivalent of “Love Story”, the equivalent of Tv Movies with Connie Sellecca. So discursive, so EASY to pull the emotions that way, so violent in the way it tells you “even you cry with this or you are not a human being”.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Heartily disagree, it draws interesting yet normal characters and puts them in situations that evolve from natural elements of their pasts whilst connecting all the elements into a closely related web. The “easy” emotional string pulling that is used in “love story esq” almost always revolves around events starting at the start and ending at the end, this game precludes that by removing any element of surprise, it literally tells you the outcome at the start.

      The emotion comes from the journey, the game play elements that link into the life of the characters and following the strings to their fruition, learning the importance of elements that one character didn’t even know and the other was unable to communicate.

    • anHorse says:

      It’s rubbish as a tearjerker, to the point where it turns into a fairly decent black comedy.

      Thing with TTM is that it would work much better as a novel but it would in turn be way less well received because the poor level of writing wouldn’t stand up in a medium where the press aren’t still amazed by any provocation of emotion.

    • Kitsunin says:

      I don’t understand this. Are some people just naturally negative? I can’t say I’ve ever played or watched something which was much lauded, and just thought “well this is totally shit”. I mean, aside from Dark Knight Rises which was just plain shit for a plethora of pretty objective reasons.

      Oh wait, that’s exactly the same as how you seem to feel, only I don’t go around claiming to be the one who sees through the facade of the movie for the shit it is, because that makes me sound like a douche.

      • Jenks says:

        RPS comments: even the guy calling everyone out for being negative can’t do it without calling something else shit.

        • Kitsunin says:

          The point of me calling DNR shit was to point out how easy it is to get into that mindset, while also pointing out how stupid it is to shout it from the rooftops. The “pretty objective” reasons are totally not objective, they’re just observations which could be considered bad from a perspective of filmmaking/story design/whatever but whose effect is inevitably completely subjective.

          Funnily enough, before writing the comment, i was thinking something along the lines of “jeez you guys, I understand something not being your thing, but I really can’t think of anything the vast majority of people adore which I find to be utter garbage.” Then it hit me, Dark Knight Rises. I hated that movie and was annoyed by the fact that people liked it, but it just now made me understand why people respond in this way. Also made me realize just how silly it is.

      • anHorse says:

        Nah you just prefer to be the whiny bitch who doesn’t even have an opinion to express.
        If you think it’s good and have solid reasons as to why then comment on this and engage, instead of sniping from the sidelines.

        Dislike and criticism of To The Moon is no surprising thing, it’s always been a divisive game. (see if I was just being negative and contrarian for the sake of it there’d be quotation marks around game)

        • Kitsunin says:

          Don’t really feel the need to express my opinions of TTM when gunny already said everything I would say. Rather I’ve just been getting frustrated by the ridiculously aggressive nature of the dislike I’m constantly seeing all around. I’ve been involving myself and trying to point out why I disagree with these kinds of assertions way too much lately, so I felt like attacking the unnecessarily inflammatory nature of the statement, because this is what actually bothers me.

          “I didn’t like this while others did, how offensive,” is just an attitude I’ve been seeing far too much of lately.

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            Risingson says:

            Yes, and you are offended for me being offended, and I am sure that you would not say a thing when the subject was Nolan (fair enough, btw). You just don’t accept that my opinion for this game is that it is offensive, offensive because how it treats feelings, how it treats deaths, and how it plays with that in a very manipulative manner.

            I had a half baked idea about “whiny gamers” and how game designers still use the very obvious Poor Kid as a resort to make people cry and how it is still forgiven, when it movies we have been laughing at that for so many decades (well, since Chaplin, more or less), and I still have to finish it.

  6. Metr13 says:

    Such an amazing game. Hope more people see it.

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    artrexdenthur says:

    It’s been a while since I played it, but I remember being completely put off the game in the finale. When the two scientists have an argument which leads to what is the gameplay climax (where one scientist is throwing stuff at the other) it was enough of a jarring WHY DON’T YOU JUST TELL HIM WHAT YOUR PLAN IS that the admittedly decent resolution failed to have any effect on me. It’s an alright game, and one I would recommend, but for me it was decidedly a low-effort-for-middling-reward experience.

  8. Talahar says:

    Played it in an afternoon, bawled my eyes out at that scene where everyone cries.
    They tuck the heartstring, and they tuck them goooood.
    Haven’t played the DLC yet, though….

    • Xeshor says:

      The DLC is more humorous than emotional, still pretty good though.

  9. Det. Bullock says:

    This game is pure emotional blackmail and I want a sequel.
    Sure, it will probably leave me figuratively curled up in a corner crying like it happened with The Blackwell Epiphany but especially after the reveal in the DLC I need to know.

  10. emptee says:

    TTM was a bit meh for me but on a sidenote. I was trying to remember witch games actualy made me cry. Grim Fandango comes to mind. Mass Effect 3 with the seeshells scene was also an effective tearjerker. End of Baldurs Gate 2 was also a good one. What I’m trying to say is that I’m a soggy kinda guy and TTM did not crack me :-)

  11. unraveler says:

    About the list: “Ten Games Wot Made Us Somewhat Lumpy-Throated”, can you still do it pls?