At times like these it seems apt to take a look at what life would be like on another planet. Moons of Madness, however, shows that time away from planet Earth might not be as relaxing as it seems.
Dreamloop Games’ Lovecraftian adventure game lands you on the surface of Mars, where technician Shane Newehart is in charge of the maintenance of a state-of-the-art research outpost, looking for signs of alien life. His shift on the red planet is over having failed to make a discovery, and Dr Newehart is now waiting for the new team, from transport ship Cyrano, to arrive and take his place. Things aren’t all they seem with this project, however, which you’ll soon come to learn as the security system goes into lockdown, the power source goes offline, and the greenhouse starts to flood with water uncontrollably.
Starting off with menial day-to-day tasks and puzzles you really take on Dr Newehart’s role aboard the station, before everything starts to snowball. These little puzzles are a key part of the game and, whilst disappointingly easy and straightforward, are a nice basis to work the game around. At times it comes across more like an interactive story, which enhances moments that would’ve otherwise been portrayed in cutscenes.
Sci-fi games are never particularly straightforward, and you expect when you boot up the game for the first time that it will take a little while for you to get to know the lore behind the story. The problem here is that the story becomes way too complex further down the line: what starts off relatively simple completely snowballs in the final act to a point that I still don’t have a clue what happened. Somehow though its plot is also markedly predictable. Despite being confused by the story, I could tell you what the next step would be half an hour before the game did – and the ending I predicted half way through! In a game that markets itself as ‘horror’ you need shocks, twists and turns. But you don’t get any of that.
To do so you would need a greater amount of exploration, particularly in the outdoor environment. The game really peaks when you head out on spacewalks across the surface of the red planet, and having more puzzles outside with the added time pressure of your depleting oxygen levels, would give a more immersive feel to the game.
And it’s outside too where the graphics are really put on show. Not on the scale of Red Dead Redemption 2 or Death Stranding but, coupled with the music and admittedly low-quality sound effects that are ever-present in the background, the mysterious and hidden nature of your surroundings comes to the forefront. The voice acting lets this down though. Passable in the mundane moments, its flaws are out in the open during the more emotive segments of the game as the characters struggle to portray any real emotion.
Getting to grips with the title is straightforward. Whilst the controls don’t match up to what you’d expect them to be, your hand is held in the early stages to help you get to grips; plus the objective marker helps you in case you get lost. This linear, point-to-point nature of the game means it’s not one you’d choose to replay. I made sure to read all the notes, emails and books along the way to get a full picture of what’s going on – if you’ve done that too then there’s no need to go back and play again.
In all though it’s an enjoyable play which, whilst dragging at times, really entices you to keep playing with a bunch of fun, yet irritatingly easy puzzles. If only the story the wasn’t so predictable, and hard to get to grips with, it could’ve been an interstellar hit.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Moons of Madness Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 4/10
Replay Value - 3/10
The story is just too complicated, with information thrown at you, if it wasn’t for this then the game could’ve been an interstellar hit.
- Strong setting and environment.
- Nice use of notes and emails to give added information.
- Easy to get to grips with.
- Too complex story.
- Weak voice acting.
- Puzzles are too easy.