Developer Rock Pocket Games, known for their work on colorful puzzle platformer Shiftlings, alongside publisher Funcom released first-person horror adventure title, Moons of Madness. The studio draws inspiration from Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s unique writing style of blending reality and fiction and took it as a reference during the creation process of Moons of Madness.
Moons of Madness puts you in the shoes (or rather, astronaut suit) of Trailblazer Alpha's engineer Shane Newehart. The ship's security system breaks down, leaving you in the dark of what is about to happen. The last you heard, a transport ship has left Earth, hoping to aid you in completing the mission and returning to Earth safely. What you don't know is how much you can stand being stranded in the middle of space as your mind slowly descends into madness. You lose your grip on reality as the thin line between what's real and what's not starts blurring.
The developers did an astounding job setting the tone of every scene with an atmospheric soundscape. Whether it’s small hissing noises throughout the spaceship due to keeping the air pressure intact or creepy echoes in the spaceship's hallways, there’s always something that sends chills down your spine. Moons of Madness's ambiance isn't the only aspect contributing to your sense of time and space, as the colors and aesthetics of the world around manage to capture the feeling almost perfectly. The palette of blue shades used in your cabinet gives a sense of loneliness, which contrasts with the oranges and reds on Mars.
Unfortunately, stepping outside isn't as easy as it sounds. Moons of Madness tries to engulf players in a realistic situation, obliging them to experience what real-life astronauts perform every time they step inside or outside their spaceship. The first few times you enter the vacuum chamber, you close the door behind you, put on your helmet, fill it with air, then initiate the airlock. The whole thing initially leaves you in awe, but the sequence quickly feels tedious, more of a time filler than anything.
This isn’t the only example either. Moons of Madness falls short in offering any challenging puzzles to solve. You’re usually tasked with finding a lost fuse or taking a power supply core out of one socket and keeping it with you to put it in where it is needed to move forward with the mission.
Moons of Madness heavily relies on its atmosphere to keep the player on edge. As usual with horror titles, you’re ill-equipped against the dangers along your path. However, the title's diverse enemy types, ranging from underground sand crawlers to exploding poisonous flowers, seemingly lack any actual threat. Once you figure out how to sprint past enemies to the nearest exit, you notice how they stop chasing when you step foot on the other side. Those villainous alien specimens simply lose their fear factor. The only time I felt threatened was during the final boss fight, where Moons of Madness does a tremendous job of significantly amplifying the dangers around you. The whole world is filled and wrapped from head to toe with pulsing dark tentacles and every step you take, there is a risk of a plant bursting out its venom on you while the mother of all these creatures is waiting for the perfect moment to hunt you down.
Moons of Madness delivers a compelling storyline that grips you from start to end. There are two separate endings based on choices you make toward the end, and protagonist Shane Newehart’s voice actor, David Stanbra, deserves recognition for pulling you in with his apparent despair and anxiety throughout the journey. This isn’t his first time lending his talent to the video game world, as he embodied Infamous: First Light’s Brent and Fire Emblem’s Xander. The storytelling is delivered through a number of well-executed and action-packed cinematics. The dramatic cutscenes and flashbacks to Shane's past constantly cross the thin line that separates reality from fiction.
Moons of Madness will be a Lovecraft standard-bearer for a while, with its intriguing and captivating storyline, impressive cinematics, and gripping voice acting. Once you can ignore the lackluster enemies, dull puzzles, and repetitive gameplay segments, Moons of Madness makes a strong case for itself as a new and unique take on Lovecraftian titles as it takes the experience to space.
TechRaptor reviewed Moons of Madness on PC via Steam using a code provided by the publisher.
- Incredible Atmosphere
- Immersive Storytelling and Characters
- Movie-worthy Cinematics
- Eerie Enemies
- Repetitive Gameplay Bits Take Its Toll
- Lackluster Combat