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Moons of Madness Review

Edited by: Jade Swann

Moons of Madness is a first-person, science fiction horror game that incorporates Lovecraftian-style themes and a desolate planet setting of Mars to offer the player a creepy experience that, while interesting, seems to falter when gameplay gets involved.

NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM

Most of the meat of the experience is through travel. You’ll explore Mars and see a range of environments, from the highly technical research station to the ancient and mythic looking temples. The game even shakes things up by having a couple of basic environments with a basement and an office — a nice change from the traditional science fiction horror aesthetic — and even tries some more psychologically strange things like mixing the two types of environments together to try and play with the player’s sense of understanding. After trekking through the area for a while, though, it starts to lose the player's interest, especially in the more basic caves where very little is noticeable.

The asset designs are a strength as well. Everything has a nice polish and the animation helps to make the overall experience more enveloping. The lighting also helps make the color palette pop, where it's not always scary, but it always manages to feel unearthly.

A PUZZLING PREDICAMENT

The gameplay, sadly, is where the experience begins to falter. While the core gameplay of walking around and exploring works fine, it's the additions to it that tend to make the game feel uninspired at best and frustrating at worst. One particular point of contention is the boss fight, which features a confusing mechanic of having a quick time event that requires the player to look straight at the prompt or else the action will not register. Aside from that, most of everything else you’re asked to do is fairly basic. It consists almost entirely of fetch quests and simple puzzles. Nothing is wrong with any of that per say, but it doesn’t really add anything interesting to the experience.

While the environmental designs are impressively creepy and the title does a fairly good job of giving a sense of dread, any and all actual scares don't feel as though they have much weight to them. It's admirable that the game wishes to keep the overt scares to a minimum and more so let the player experience the world themselves, but there are so few scares that most of the time the player will find themselves surprised that they didn't get scared, rather than surprised that they were.

IT IS VERY COLD IN SPACE

The characters themselves can be a bit one-note. While the dialogue can be peppy in moments, the title doesn't give us that much time with any of them to truly get as invested in them as it seems the game would wish. Most of the experience is pushed by a theme of isolation, so human interaction is squandered by the game’s desire to keep the player moving to the next portion of the game. Most of the interaction with the characters is based around brief intercom calls between you and any of the crew available. This provides enough for scene context, but leaves very little of a lasting impression, and doesn’t really help the player connect with the story in any meaningful way. Additionally, the narrative is damaged by a very lackluster ending that, while understandable, doesn’t make the experience feel worth it.

The story does benefit from some unique ideas. Basing itself around a Cthulhu mythos mixed with a science fiction thriller creates something that does manage to stand out amongst other horror games around this era. Using this as a basis, it lends itself to some very interesting imagery, and can often be the highlight of the game. It gives the player something different to walk through, rather than what would usually be just a haunted house or cavern.

6

The Verdict: Good

In spite of the gameplay feeling lacking, the overall ideas in Moons of Madness do deserve recognition. The presentation provides the player with a unique horror experience. Ultimately, the game just packs enough polish in the presentation to truly push itself into something great, leaving Moons of Madness as admirable, but lacks the focus to make it an iconic entry in horror gaming.

See About Us to learn how we score

Liam Cunningham
Written by
Friday, 27 December 2019 06:34
Published in Adventure

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Hailing from Maryland, Liam spent his college years studying all kinds of media, granting him an Associate's Degree in film from Anne Arundel Community College and a degree in Simulation and Digital Entertainment from the University of Baltimore to learn narrative game writing. He has worked on his own internet serials for many years, including Colorless Commentary (a review series of classic Hollywood films) and A Look Back with Lac! (Reviewing classic Anime). Also, he has voiced and wrote for many anime parodies for fun as well as creating, writing and directing a Batman fan adaptation, The Gotham High Radio Drama. His favorite games include the Kingdom Hearts series, Sly Cooper, Metal Gear Solid, The Stanley Parable, and Super Smash Bros.

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