To The Moon – A Beautiful Exploration of Trauma, Love and Dreams

Save 75% on To the Moon on Steam

   “To The Moon” is an amazing game and story. It was created by Kan Gao on the RPG Maker XP and gives us a wonderful psychological science fiction story. This is a game that I highly recommend. There is a solid mystery story and the soundtrack draws you into the conflict and world that Kan Gao created. I’ll be getting into the details of what make the game work later on so I want to get the great told up front as the mystery is what drives the story. I did this game as a “Let’s Play” where I played through it with one of my closest friends who introduced me to the game in the first place.

The game was created by Kan Gao and developed and published by Freebird Games.

The story follows Dr. Watts and Dr. Roselane who work for the Sigmund Corporation whose job is to fulfill dying people’s last wish. The two Doctors must fulfill Johnny’s wish by entering his memories and help him get to the Moon.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is absolutely beautiful. It is reminscent of Claude Debussy, specifically “Claire de Lune.” Kan Gao and Laura Shigihara did an absolutely fantastic job on this soundtrack. There is a melancholy feel to the entire soundtrack and it blends in well with the themes of trauma and love that are explored over the course of the game.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is simple but fun. You move around as the Doctors collecting items in the real world and in Johnny’s memoryscape. In his memoryscape you create items tied to memories in order to jump further back into his past and in turn create the program of the wish so that the patient’s last memories will be false ones of their wish coming true. There is also variety too as there are puzzles when you activate an item that lets you jump back in the past, the search for the items themselves and even some simple combat puzzles and even Whac-A-Mole. It is quite fun and I was never bored.

The Story – The story is what drives the game and it is fantastic. Dr. Watts and Roselane have a great dynamic with Watts being a giant nerd who can be a jerk while Roselane is sentimental and acts on the fly. Johnny’s backstory is compelling too as we meet his wife River and explore their relationship and eventually arrive at the moment of trauma that defined his life in his childhood. In all of this is the search for where his wish to go the moon was first born and how Watts and Roselane explore the narrative draws you in.

Dr. Watts and Dr. Roselane – Watts and Roselane have a great dynamic. Watts is a giant nerd who pretends not to be sentimental while Roselane is very sentimental but also can be harsh and by the books. In the end she is the one who takes a huge risk in order to bring about Johnny’s wish once they find why in his old age he’s forgotten about his original dream. Roselane was my favorite character and I loved how much her actions drive the story.

Johnny and River – Johnny and River is the main romance of the story. Johnny is the old man who is dying and we see how much of his life was spent by River and the problems they. River is on the autism spectrum (like myself) and at times they have trouble communicating with one another sometimes but the love is there until the end. They had a fascinating dynamic and in the end the program brings them together again when Roselane changes the program of their original first date. In this we see how much they cared for one another and that it was a love that neither of them was fully able to express in words.

The Moment of Trauma and Consequences – Watts and Roselane come to find that Johnny has blocked out trauma from his childhood, which keeps them from achieving his dream until he and they face it once more. The trauma is that his twin brother Joey was run over by his mother by accident. She was never able to make peace with this and always calls Johnny Joey. It is so sad and is a huge reason that he isn’t able to be fully open with River. The trauma defined him.

The Ending – Roselane changes the past by saving Joey and in Johnny’s last memories he joins NASA and as it turns out River does too. This happens due to their first meeting during the fair where they escape to watch the stars and moon as they don’t want to be around people. It is in this first meeting they say if they ever get separated they’ll meet once more on the moon. It is so sweet and I like that Johnny got to experience a life he never got to live with his brother and have a life still with River. It was perfection and blended with the soundtrack so amazingly.

If you are a fan of RPGs in the style of “Dragon Quest” but are good with a game with very little combat and simple puzzles you should check this game out. I love it and it is easily one of my favorite games. The narrative is tight, the humor is fun and how trauma and relationships are explored is done so well. I loved this game and look forward to playing the sequel. There is an animated film in development by Kan Gao, and when it comes out I will be watching it.

Final Score: 10 / 10

 

Midsommar (2019): An Amazing Film About Grief and Isolation

Image result for Midsommar poster

   “Hereditary” was one of my favorite films last year and this year “Midsommar” has the potential to be that too. This is a psychological disturbing horror film that delves into the depths of grief. The only thing that really holds it back is the only likable character is our main character.

The film was written and directed by Ari Aster.

The story follows Dani (Florence Pugh) after her sister kills herself and her parents she finds herself isolated and alone. When her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends when they travel to an isolated Swedish village that is the hometown of one of the friends for the village’s midsummer festival.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Cinematography – The cinematography is some of the best I’ve seen all year. There are wide shots that suck in just how isolating open spaces can be. The film largely takes place in daylight and Pawel Pogorzelski uses this to give an ethereal alien feel to our characters as they are drugged by their hosts and the midsummer 9 day festival begins.

Soundtrack – The music uses lots of chants and quick strikes on the strings and drums. This plays beautifully into the isolation and the nature focus of the cult and it plays into the isolation. The music is striking and it makes the scenes and experiences of the characters stand out.

Dani’s Isolation – Dani’s isolation is our primary perspective in the film. It is done beautifully and nature is used to portray it. She is alone, even when she is with people and this is reflected in wide shots of wherever she is (her college or the village) and her visions. The drugs cause some of those visions as well which compounds how alone she is feeling. In the end she is the Cult’s mark and her isolation she feels from the beginning the film is what is taken advantage of.

The Terror of the Cult – The cult is creepy. They view themselves as part of nature and will kill themselves when they reach a certain age or to keep the balance of how many people are in the village. This extends out to people bringing sacrifices to keep alive longer and to sustain the village bloodline. The creepiness is there the moment you enter the village. The villagers never give much information and there are hints in the art on what will happen to the tourists. They are the scariest part of the film and seeing it from Dani’s fear and isolation only makes it more powerful especially as she chooses Christian as the final sacrifice for the festival showing just how in the cult she has become.

Facing Grief – The main arc of the story is Dani facing her isolation and grief over her sister killing herself and their parents. The cult has a life built around the seasons and villagers willingly give up their lives for the cause. This acclimates her to death to the point that by the end she smiles even as her friends and ex are now all dead. For her the breaking scene is when she finds Christian in a sex ritual with a girl from the village. It is here the village women cry with her and in the burning of the past she is reborn in the village and smiles for the only time the entire film.

Okay:

The Characters as Expendable Tropes – The characters are all jerks except for Dani. Her boyfriend doesn’t want to be in the relationship and never listens to her, his friends are a partier and the one who is studying the village for his Thesis and never shows kindness to anyone. The friend who brought them there is terrible as well as he knew he was bringing them there to be sacrificed. The one reason it isn’t a con is it does play well into Dani’s isolation and her eventually becoming the May Queen and a member of the Cult.

If you enjoy horror films or Ari Aster, this is a film I highly recommend. The film is long but it doesn’t feel that way at all. “Midsommar” has has a Kubrickesque feel as it has you sit with characters and scenes so they sink in and you feel uncomfortable by what is happening or what might be about to happen. This is the kind of horror enjoy and the fact that the film uses the theme of grief as an exploration adds another layer to an already great film.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10 If the other tourists with Dani had been likable it would be perfect.