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Moons Of Madness

Posted by GG Goblin On November - 6 - 2019

Cosmic horror that seems well placed on Mars.

 
Rock Pocket Games’ action adventure Moons of Madness is set in the near future on Mars, which turns out to be a very good setting for the Lovecraftian cosmic horror that features in the game. In this time when Lovecraft seems to have reached impressive popularity within video games, they have to do something to distinguish themselves, and dropping the player on another planet is a pretty good way to do this. However, to be a truly great Lovecraft-based game requires more than a few tentacles and a loss of sanity.

 


 
Players of Funcom’s The Secret World games will have some familiarity going in to Moons of Madness. The game is set within the same universe and fans will of the bat recognise that the research base on Mars is owned by the Orochi Group, which may or may not have something to do with all of the creepy goings on. Players will take on the role of engineer Shane Newehart, who happens to be suffering from rather bad dreams. Still, that is not going to stop him from getting on with his relatively mundane job of making sure everything is running as it should on the base.

 
Of course, that wouldn’t make for much of a game, and after a short while of running through the every day stuff to give the player an idea of how to play, things start to get more and more strange and unsettling. Through the course of the game, Shane will remain by himself, although he is often in radio communication with other members of his team, either when they are having Shane do something for them, or just for general chit chat. Shane will find himself exploring different areas of the unlocking doors and interacting with control panels, and even putting on a space suit and heading out onto the impressive surface of Mars.

 
The interior settings of the base are nicely made and suit the game, looking like you would expect. However, it is when things get less industrialised that the games visuals really shine. The surface of Mars is stunning to look at and while some scenes are slightly unsettling, there is no denying that Moons of Madness is a good looking game.

 


 
When it comes to the gameplay, players will spend a lot of time walking around. The movement works well at a slow pace, but can struggle when the tempo is increased. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen so often that it becomes an issue, and is pretty much limited to the occasional frantic chase scene. Much of the gameplay though will revolve around solving puzzles and collecting information about the game world through discarded documents or computer files. There is a massive amount of lore in the game and fans of TSW will find a lot to sink their teeth into. All of this comes alongside the secret missions going on at the base, and Shane’s own personal drama, to make a game that feels a little disjointed in its storytelling.

 
The puzzles themselves are nice and varied. Shane has a device on his wrist that allows him access to various base systems, and many of the more technical puzzles will take place right there as the player remotely connects. This device, called the Biogage, also keeps track of the players inventory and will helpfully guide the player to their next objective should they need a nudge in the right direction. The puzzles cover all types, from simple matching to hunting for needed items, and while they do not present too much of a challenge, are quite enjoyable. There are couple of less than welcome stealth sections, but we will choose to ignore them.

 
The problem comes from combining the different aspects of the game. Moons of Madness can build a great atmosphere, only to totally blow the immersion by pushing the player from one puzzle to the next. The game is not hugely scary, although there are a few well timed jump scares and some especially gory and unsettling scenes, but the whole lingering fear of the unknown, that theme which should be commonplace in all Lovecraft-inspired games, is not really given enough time to evolve into anything unnerving. None of this is helped by the voice acting of Shane. There are some great moments when the character is half scared to death, and this shows in his action and voice. But the next moment his tone of voice has returned to that of a Martian odd-job man going about his business.

 


 
Moons of Madness has a great setting, some nice scares and some truly creepy scenes. It is also quite a good adventure, albeit slightly short running at under ten hours. There is a lot of lore to discover, and the puzzles are fun. However, the Lovecraftian fear of the unknown and that sense of sanity slipping away are not really depicted well in the game. With that said though, players looking for that Lovecraft inspiration in a less conventional setting, those who enjoy a good puzzle adventure game, or those that just want to be spooked on Mars will find Moons of Madness to be a great place to visit.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 



 

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