Space, insanity, and the fear of the unknown are fertile ground for any imaginative story. Moons of Madness uses these themes to create its deliberate, sci-fi narrative about an unfortunate science crew working on the red planet who encounter something beyond their understanding. Do you need to get your butt to Mars?
Moons of Madness focuses on the crew of the Invictus. They are studying Mars, hoping to find life, and seeing if they can grow some of their own. The foundation shows a lot of promise with a hint of what’s to come. After a good intro sequence, we are introduced to Shane Newehouse, an engineer on the small team as he starts a new day.
The story in Moons of Madness is really a narrative game on rails with creepy visuals and scares. The story is told mostly through environmental clues or emails on computer terminals. These messages give insights into a character or some details about why things went wrong. The tale is good, but it’s uneven. The beginning is a little slow and tedious as it builds the world, and the sprint to the ending feels a little rushed. It would be nice to have a little more interaction as I move shane from place to place for another job.
Shane’s work is split between powering devices and solving puzzles to complete his tasks. You really won’t do much else. There are mysteries wrapped up in why problems keep occurring, but you’ll need to reroute and connect circuits, find missing power sources, and align devices for signal strength. The puzzles are simple and fine, but the game can sometimes major on the minor with the sequences to enter a habitat or vehicle taking multiple button presses. It’s not terrible. It was a realistic touch I don’t think I needed.
Although Shane is alone for most of the game, he doesn’t always feel that way. You will see human phantasms out a window that disappear quickly and other dark shapes that melt away when he draws near. Other times, they stick around or worse and you can see the stress represented as red or black tentacles along the outside of the screen and an increased heart rate shown on your biogage.
The biogage acts as a snapshot of your current health, but it’s also an effective task manager in case you forget your next objective. There is also a minor inventory screen for items you pick up, but inventory management is not a mechanic. The biogage also allows you to scan the environment to find interactive items in the world while also telling you where to go next. I found the directional indicator to be a little inaccurate at times and missing at others.
Movement feels very slow. There is a sprint button, and it’s something I used a lot. It’s not an action game, so quick movement isn’t necessary to avoid death. If you do happen to die, you’re only a checkpoint load away from fixing your mistake.
The mind-bending parts of the game do make a big splash and once started, it’s almost non-stop. There are very bad things happening here with supernatural, Lovecraftian elements. There are mostly jump scares or being chased by something with nasty tentacles, but there’s not a lot of otherworldly variety in the flora and fauna.
When you do come face to face with something scary, those rare parts are good and crank up the tension, even though I think they released too much of the mystery too quickly. That mystery can be completely unraveled in about four hours, give or take, if you are looking everywhere and trying to read everything.
The sound and visuals are solid and continued to reflect the deteriorating state of the base as well as Shane’s mental state. The sound keeps you on edge, and the music was enjoyable. Some space games try to be too sparse with music, but Moons of Madness struck a good balance. Even with limited interaction with other crew members, the voice-over work is good. The presentation is not overly complicated, but it fit the game very well.
Moons of Madness is a short, guided walk into other dimensions, tentacles, childhood trauma, and hallucinations. The game looks and sounds good, but it’s ultimately more walking than doing. The story offers up a good start with some scares that made me jump, but the overall narrative needed a few more of these and better pacing. For me, it’s still a good experience, but only if you accept its faults.
Moons of Madness PS4 Review
- Overall - Good - 6.5/106.5/10
Moons of Madness scratches that itch of space and Lovecraftian horror that I really love. It’s not perfect with some story pacing issues, slow movement, and the feeling of being on rails at times, but it managed to give me some good scares and was generally a fun experience.
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.