Title: Moons of Madness
Developer: Rock Pocket Games
Official Site: MoonsofMadness.com
Release Date: October 22, 2019 (PC), March 24, 2020 (PS4 and Xbox One)
Version Tested: Xbox
In the last few years, Lovecraft has made a heck of a comeback in the video game industry. Moons of Madness, is yet another foray into that genre, though there are times when it’s hard to know exactly where this story came from. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It shows Rock Pocket Games managed to come up with something that stands out from the crowd. There are plenty of games based on his old horror stories that are based on the planet earth.
The Sinking City and Call of Cthulu, to name just two released in 2019. Moons of Madness does something just a little bit different, and it definitely works for the title. One of the reasons the game, which landed on PC several months before it did console, works so well is because there are actually a couple of different games packed into one. You might even think, at times, there are three different games packed into the title.
There is a positive and a negative to the start of Moons of Madness. Yes, the main character Shane Newhart gives you a preview of what you will see much later in the game when he wakes up to a literal nightmare. But eventually, that nightmare fades, and the game becomes…something similar to a tycoon game. It’s a bit of a walking simulator in that you will need to do a number of different chores. That includes making yourself a cup of coffee and some breakfast.
This isn’t entirely a game like Surviving Mars. You’re not going to need to keep the base going as long as possible—eventually, the goal of the game changes. But the first hour or even two, depending on how quickly you move, is all about doing things like Shane would if he was just going about his day. There is a reason for this. Moons of Madness wants you to see precisely why things are starting to seem rather odd to Shane.
Perhaps the game goes a little too far in making you go through the motions. Fetching and grabbing things, despite the fact the job isn’t all that hard, can get tedious, but it works for me. There’s something to be said for working that hard to convince you everything is ok. Even if stuff starts to feel a little off right from the end, I also enjoyed that the dream was foreshadowing, but you knew Shane couldn’t possibly know that.
Doom, with less combat in Moons of Madness
The other game this feels a bit like every now and then is Doom. Now, you aren’t going to be blowing the brains out the back of demons’ heads. Still, going through a space station and then Mars, as well as the graphical layout, will make you feel as though this might have been a different kind of Doom.
The combat doesn’t give you anywhere near the same kind of satisfaction. The combat isn’t something that is really supposed to provide you with that kind of happiness. Alien: Isolation might be a better comp. Even that doesn’t quite do it, because you don’t start off the game knowing there’s something out to get you. And, you aren’t all alone for a good part of the story.
While you don’t see anyone else for quite a while, you spend quite a bit of time talking to them. But there is a foreboding feel to things as the story continues.
No, there really isn’t anything here that’s going to make you jump out of your chair. The scares are more atmospheric than anything else. That said, the weirdness that shows up from the middle of the story does an excellent job of making you feel as though something is just around the corner. The story isn’t going to have you worried about sleeping later that night, but there is plenty there to make it fun for those who like this type of game.
Look Matches Feel
One of the great things the development team did with this title is that the scenery matches what you’re supposed to be feeling. When you start out Moons of Madness, the scenery is very sterile and colorless. As things move along, color is inserted into the world a bit more. This is right before things get very, very dark. This works because the game is one that looks very, very good. There is some surprise for the title because it’s being put together by a small team.
Some of that is because they took their time and made sure it was going to look as good on the console as it did on PC. Obviously, they don’t hit the same sharpness completely, but it’s a good looking game that will make players want to play on to see more.
Verdict: Moons of Madness is a game that is going to appeal to a certain niche, but it manages to grab that niche hard and never let go. Despite a ridiculously slow start, things pick up ok, and the tone shift is something that works for the game. This isn’t going to compete for a game of the year, but it’s something that should go down as one of the better indie titles out there.
- Really good looking
- Mundane tasks are oddly fun
- Technically sound, there are very few noticeable bugs
- Really Slow Developing
- Dialogue is wooden