Shane is an engineer stationed on a space station on the planet Mars. He wakes up, but no one is around. He gets a radio call and is tasked with fixing something outside. From here the journey into madness begins. Any story borrowing from H.P. Lovecraft typically uses a lone person on an adventure into insanity. Moons of Madness is a first-person horror game with interactive puzzles and a fair amount of creepy scares. Besides surviving the dangers of monsters, oxygen is also a concern being that some of the objectives take place outside. This adds an additional element of stress, as the spacesuit must be refilled when low. As usual, things get worse as progression is made. Nightmares await on Mars.
Here’s what I liked:
Lovecraft in Space — There are two genres I love: survival horror and science fiction. Mix them together and you get a beautiful mixture of fear and the unknown. Being so far away from “home” (Earth), it makes it even scarier. Oftentimes, Lovecraftian games follow a pattern: you seem okay; a few scary things happen; then you’re having hallucinations. I personally haven’t read any of Lovecraft’s work, but I find myself playing out things inspired by it. So far, this has been my favorite version. It might be the science fiction part. If you’ve played Dead Space, you’ll be oddly comfortable being stuck on a space station of terror.
Attention to Detail — Besides looking beautiful, you’ll find very detailed surroundings. The space station areas have a lot of items you’d find at workstations and it is a believable environment. Gadgets and equipment are great to look at with curiosity. These areas eventually become dark and infested with what appears to be an alien lifeform. A black substance inhabits most rooms and gives you that hesitation about whether to continue. There’s a scene where you’re in a basement (flashback hallucination?). This was my favorite area. Maybe it’s because it looked so familiar, being away from Mars and seeing bookcases and household items scattered around. The only somewhat boring areas were Mars itself, barren and dusty. That’s what it is though, so it’s still accurate. Overall, my favorite part of the game was just looking at stuff, and seeing it become infested.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Curious Characters — If you asked me who my favorite crew member was I would have no answer. I don’t even know their names. They talk to you on the radio sometimes and you can read emails on terminals with reference to them. You never care nor get attached to any. Stumble upon a corpse of one and you go “who was that again? Oh well”. Usually, a story will get you to have some kind of feeling towards the other characters. This makes their untimely deaths a soft blow to your emotions. Not here. Even the main character Shane doesn’t seem too phased about it. He’s more disgusted with what happened and worried he’ll be next. I don’t want to fall in love with these people but I wouldn’t mind being disappointed at their demise.
Awkard Puzzle Interaction — While I did enjoy most of the puzzles presented, I often had a hard time with certain interactions. This started at the first puzzle when you must move satellites around. I had no clue I could adjust them up and down as well, which meant I was stuck for quite some time. You usually use a digital device to connect to various technology. This connection was a pain at times, though I’m not sure if that’s because I was using a controller. With the same puzzle above, I would often press a button by mistake that shuts the computer monitor. Then I would have to open it back up and connect. There are other times you’re trying to connect and interact with the wrong object. This isn’t frequent but when it did happen, it was kind of annoying.
If you like horror and science fiction, this is something you need to check out. The gorgeous environment with a sinister evil to it will be something you’ll enjoy. The game is short but everything is packaged nicely and it feels like you spent enough time with it. Puzzles can be somewhat difficult but the real hindrance comes with interaction with some of them. It’s a very subtle horror. You won’t be jumping from loud noises or panic running much, but you will have that looming uneasy feeling that something isn’t right. In this sense, it is an intelligent horror game that keeps your brain stimulated with puzzles while worrying about what will happen after you complete them.
Score: Highly Recommended
Moons of Madness was published by Funcom and developed by Rock Pocket Games on Xbox One. It was released on March 24, 2020, for $29.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.