A Quick Look: To The Moon
I have to get it off my chest: Ken Gao’s To The Moon is fantastic! As a man, I am not afraid to admit I have emotions, so believe me when I say that I was reduced to a sobbing ball of tears after completing the game. Its story structure is perfectly crafted to evoke a various range of emotions that ends in something inexplicably beautiful.
Veiled by what initially appears to be an RPG, To The Moon is a well crafted narrative about love and loss while setting itself up for an ongoing tale. Within the first few segments of the game, we learn that you are not playing an RPG, but traversing the story of many intertwined lives that speakof the human experience. The two protagonists, Dr. Eva and Dr. Watts, represent a company that is capable of altering the memories of a person; the catch is, they only do this in order to give people who are on their deathbed their dying wish.
As the title suggests, the dying character Johnny wishes to go to the moon. What comes across as a mix between Inception and Eternal Sunshine is delivered in a way that doesn’t offend those that are fan of either movie. Instead, it creates a fascinating world of its own by establishing a heartwarming relationship between all the characters present.
Players will walk through each segment, watching Johnny’s memories play out in front of them while trying to solve the mystery as to why he wants to go to the moon. Eva and Watts need this in order to form a memory in Johnny’s mind that fits tightly with the rest of his past life experiences. Each memory has five hidden objects or locations that give the player an orb to break through the barrier guarding an item that links Johnny’s memories together. Though in the first playthrough it is hard to see how these objects are linked, paying close attention to the minor details shows how well Gao thought his story through.
The love story between River and Johnny is full of various emotions; from tragedy to romanticism, Gao creates a believable relationship between a couple who have to overcome a not so normal mental disability. Though players may get frustrated with River’s bizarre behaviors, when it is finally revealed what ultimately is going on and using other characters to help sympathize with both parties, it becomes hard not to be brought to tears by the revelation as to Johnny’s motives.
Don’t get me wrong, so far I make it sound like To The Moon is entirely a drama, but the characters of Eva and Watts possess that distantly flirtacious tone that keeps the story funny and lighthearted when the moment calls for it. Gao seems to use these likable characters in order to potentially weave a deeper story that shows potential for more emotionally driven sequels. Even if you struggle with the idea of playing To The Moon because it isn’t much of a game as much as it is a story, I heavily suggest you play it. The experience will resonate throughout your soul.