Title: Moons of Madness
Developer: Rock Pocket Games
Official Site: MoonsofMadness.com
Release Date: October 22, 2019 (PC), January 2020 (PS4 and Xbox One)
Version Tested: PC
A gaming public tired of zombies and vampires have been crying out for a new kind of horror genre on their consoles and PC. Moons of Madness is one of the answers to that call. Or at least the developers tried to make it be.
HP Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu has spawned dozens of comics, movies, and books since it was first published. In the last few years, his story has been the basis for a growing number of new video games as well.
There’s the game carrying the famous name, Call of Cthulhu, which recently came to the Nintendo Switch. There’s also The Sinking City, more based on the world Lovecraft created than mirroring the book.
Now, Moons of Madness arrives on the PC, a first-person horror game just in time for Halloween. What sets this game apart from other Lovecraftian horror games keeps it fresh. Rather than finding the protagonist in the middle of a weird city still on Earth, this time you’re traipsing around a Martian base.
As Shane Newehart, your mission is to fix a facility that has one problem pop up after another. While you go about your day, doing your job, you suddenly realize some rather odd things are starting to pop up and things only get weirder as the game goes along.
Works as a Mars Simulator
They say the best horror is one that arrives at a slow boil. It’s clear the Moons of Madness devs agree.
After opening the story with some heavy foreshadowing, the first two-plus hours of the story have almost no scares at all. Instead, Moons of Madness takes its time introducing you to the world and showing you the mechanics that will allow you to survive later.
When I was having to find a way to align the solar panels and make sure I had enough oxygen to complete my tasks, this felt like a better version of Surviving Mars. Despite going into the game expecting Lovecraftian horror off the bat, I quite enjoyed my time tinkering with machines and making sure I could breathe.
In fact, as the monsters and creepy vine things and whatever else started coming for me, I found myself wishing Moons of Madness was just a Mars colony simulator. If it had been a Mars colony simulator, the game, in general, might have been better.
The setting for Moons of Madness wants you to think you’re in the middle of a game like Doom. The reality is the tone of the game is a bit more like Alien: Isolation.
This isn’t a game that you’re going to be ripping and tearing through enemies. Running and hiding is more the flavor of this title. Knowing that running and hiding is the key, it would have been nice if Moons of Madness was scary. Even a little.
No Scares to Be Seen
Moons of Madness tries to scare the player as they make their way through the installation. As things start to go wrong, figures will flash on the screen. Sounds can be heard in the distance.
Neither of those things combine to really set the mood all that well. Partially because while you’re alone, you’re never really alone.
You might be wandering around the Martian facility on your own but especially for the first few hours, you are in almost constant contact with other members of the crew.
They never make an appearance, which is likely an attempt to make you feel isolated. Instead, you speak to them over a kind of walkie-talkie system. The problem with this is being able to talk to them means you don’t feel all that isolated. Even when the conversations take a creepier turn, as you realize maybe there’s something wrong, it still never gets all that creepy or scary. The rather wooden dialogue with some of the more peripheral characters doesn’t help in this regard.
The lack of scares is even more frustrating considering the opening spookiness isn’t bad. If the entire game was this dark and dangerous feeling, the creep factor would be dialed up.
Moons of Madness isn’t scary. What it is, is fun to look at.
This isn’t a game that has a massive budget but it appears what money the devs did have, they poured into the scenery and the realism. The graphics are sharp enough you can get lost in wandering around the station.
The same can be said when you’re outside the safety of the facility and roaming Mars. It’s a bit of a letdown the game isn’t an open world for this reason. Roaming the Martian countryside would be fun in its own right. On the other hand, there’s enough exploration and traversal, it can be argued you get just enough scenery before things turn dark and survival and solving the mystery is the goal.
Verdict: Moons of Madness is short of thrills and chills but that doesn’t make it a bad game. Working throughout the facility so that you can get everything up and running is worth your time. Even figuring out just what happened in Shane’s distant past is worth playing through. It’s not a perfect game, especially if you were hoping for something to turn off all the lights and play on Halloween night. But it’s plenty of fun and plenty of fun to look at while the story unfolds.
- Really good looking
- Mundane tasks are oddly fun
- Technically sound, there are very few noticeable bugs
- Not remotely scary
- Dialogue is wooden