Friday, February 21, 2014

To the Moon: completed!

The end of the game was a bit weak, I feel.  The section showing John meeting River for the first time, away from school, was touching, with it explaining many of the links throughout the games.
 River refusing to reveal her name, John giving her the platypus, and the stars being lighthouses that communicate with each other - therefore explaining the importance of their lighthouse.

John and River told each other that if they ever got lost, they would find each other on the moon.  And so starts the ending.

After the adrenaline rush of the plans not working, and the travel backwards to show this first meeting, Eva realised that the thing stopping John's memory from changing was the extent of his involvement with River.  She ran off to change things, leaving me in charge of Neil, which felt annoying given that I had specifically chosen at the start to control Eva.  The sequences after this were frustrating in that it was evident that none of my actions were changing the story or even helping it to progress - in fact, it was a battle against the game for a battle's sake.  All through this, Neil and Eva spoke in riddles; I'd guessed what Eva was going to do, but it was never explicitly stated but instead just implied.

Then Neil and Eva regrouped, and the story was explained.  Eva had made two changes to John's memory - erasing his twin brother Joey's death, and taking River away from the school.  Neil was aghast at the idea of deleting River - such a constant in John's life, but of course any memory containing her would now contain Joey instead.

We then journeyed through John's reimagined memories; stating he wants to be an astronaut, studying, applying to NASA, getting accepted.  NASA's simplistic buildings made me smile when I first saw them and remembered that these weren't meant to be how it was in the real world - this was how John's mind was imagining them as memories.  The obvious twist was that River returned at this stage, and everything was back to how it was before from this point on.

Which would be great if it wasn't for the fact that John had just lost all his memories of teenage love, spending time with River as they grew up, dating, and so on.  I wasn't happy about that.

But, in any case, the objective was completed.  John and River boarded the spacecraft, and everyone went to watch John's memories.

The shuttle lifted off, on its way to the moon.

Yes, the shuttle. No, the space shuttle never went to the moon.  Yes, John would have known this, and yet still imagined that was the spacecraft of choice.  That ruined the moment somewhat.

In any case, we saw John and River in the shuttle cockpit, with the moon in their sights, and then ...

We never saw John and River reach the moon before hearing his medical instruments stopping and his death.  Were we too late; had John never been to the moon?

I don't think that's an obvious inference. Events weren't happening in real time at the end of the game - what we were seeing was one of John's (altered) memories, and he would have remembered the whole of that memory instantaneously at the point of it being altered.  John has been to the moon, even if we didn't see it.

During the credits there were excerpts from John's life showing that he now remembered later events as they actually were, but with Joey there as well.  The game's epilogue showed John being buried overlooking the lighthouse next to River, with scant conversation of whether this life had been improved by the alterations of his memories.  Did he die happier?

As something which pushes the boundaries of stortytelling in games, I'd recommend this to anyone.  As a game, it's crude and at times feels very linear.  The actual story is very rigid, with your actions only serving to move you along the path rather than allowing any sort of branching.   However, the story is incredibly involving, and the fact that I felt so cheated merely due to the fact that I was forced to control Neil and having the actions of the story taken out my hands shows just how much games can pull you in.

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