Hidden Gems – To The Moon
Spoiler Warning: I will be talking about the story in To The Moon.
To The Moon is a 16-bit Indie adventure game developed by Canadian game designer Kan Gao. Games like this are not usually on my radar but I’m glad that I embarked on this emotional journey with To The Moon.
To The Moon is set in the future, you control two doctors who explore a dying man’s memories through technology in order to reconstruct them to fulfil his last wish. The 16-bit style is reminiscent of classics like Legend of Zelda however To The Moon has no combat mechanics or RPG elements only some puzzle solving tied into the story.
The story intelligently tackles philosophical and emotional themes, which are rarely spoken about. Usually, AAA games like Far Cry 5, Doom etc are there to disconnect the gamer from their violent actions however To The Moon connects the gamer with their emotions. Creating a platform to think about their lives and the themes of mortality, love and existentialist thinking.
Sensitive Topic Warning: I'll be speaking about living with a disability
Living with the terminal condition Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy has made me question my own mortality and trying to answer many existential questions. Last summer when I was at home my heart stopped, as you can obviously tell (because I’m typing this) I’m still here and earlier this year I lost my friend David Mayes. To The Moon reminded me of the tough questions I decided to answer by thinking about my wishes after I’m gone.
To The Moon has the perfect music to make you genuinely ugly cry, the subtle piano notes and 16-bit art style transported me back in time to my childhood and having to stop playing the piano due to my muscle weakness. Discovering that I had an uncurable life-limiting condition was extremely tough, like Johnny there were parts of my memory with repressed feelings of anger, depression and guilt. For a long time, I wouldn’t face those parts unless I could reconstruct those memories.
What I loved the most about To The Moon was that the story did not rely on negative depictions of Autism, it shows that autistic people can become adults and find love. Finally, I was worried that the story would change into the character River wanting to reconstruct her memories and ‘cure’ her autism. Many games seem to think that having a disability means that you want to be fixed with technology or powers (i.e. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus).
To The Moon reminds me of the equally profound game What Remains of Edith Finch, both games focus on mortality and death but through experiencing characters memories you realise that the inverse is true, these games are focusing on life.
Games like these create lifelong memories by tapping into your heart, not your mind.