Developer: Rock Pocket Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Moons of Madness takes you to Mars, the planet that holds many secrets. A group of scientists and engineers from the Orochi group are carrying out a variety of botanical research to understand Martian soil and thereby try to find water, bacteria or any type of living thing that may be useful for the company’s interests and plans. This important and secret mission requires professionals prepared and ready to face a routine that will put you in areas never seen before and, of course, in very different conditions than we are used to.
In this first-person action game, you play as Shane Newehart, a mechanical engineer who takes care of all the functional parts of this research base but has little idea of what the real objectives of this mission are. Your stay on this planet has resulted in nightmares, visions, and hallucinations. It is with these characteristics that Lovecraft-inspired terror gains strength.
Your character wakes up after a pretty big earthquake, they are pretty common, but this time they had an unusual impact of destabilizing a lot of the base’s equipment, mainly the photovoltaic arrangement that contains several solar panels to capture the energy of the installation. In this first moment, you will be assigned to fix all the affected sectors, this is where the game will present the Martian routine that will be very immersive, thanks to the beautiful visual and sound effects. The commands and interactions also help in the experience, because in Moons of Madness you will need, for example, to convert the atmosphere inside the installation to the same one as the planet, without forgetting, of course, to put on the helmet so as not to die without air.
Moons of Madness gameplay consists of walking, running, crouching, crouching, scanning the environment and interacting with objects that show the interaction icon. In other words, no jumping or attack button, making the focus of the gameplay is the exploration and solving of puzzles. This can make the game seem a little slow, especially for players used to action-oriented games. But the game still manages to impose its rhythm, either to escape from something that chases you in the shadows or to cross the Martian desert to the next decompression chamber before the oxygen in your suit runs out.
Some doors need access cards, unlock levers or open with the proximity. The equipment is full of buttons that need to be pressed in the correct order to perform their actions. The sound, on the other hand, is sometimes null, and we are left with only the muffled sound effect of the wind outside, which will make you tense, especially when things start to get dark. All these details are very welcome and make the player feel like a real space explorer.
Shane’s main equipment is the biosensor, a type of remote control that is connected to almost all equipment at the Moons of Madness station. With it, you can tune the solar panels, unlock doors, control cameras, power systems, and many other functions, in addition to showing what your next tasks are and organizing your inventory. The equipment will also be useful for solving many puzzles and will sometimes show the way if it gets lost.
In an attempt to help stabilize the installation, you will explore areas that you should not, as you do not have authorized access. But it is through this that the engineer will begin to discover that the Orochi group hides things even from this team. As you go into the secret rooms your hallucinations will become stronger. And it is not a surprise, after all, the environment begins to have a dark look, the study plants curiously spread all over the place and are even similar to what he saw in his dreams.
From now on, the climate will no longer be the same and you will have to face your fears, but do not think that there will be fighting with armaments. In fact, Moons of Madness is focused on storytelling and puzzles. Here, the atmosphere is usually composed of a lot of suspense and some jump scares. The creatures are real enough to harm you, but to get rid of them, just run away or solve puzzles that are mostly very smart and even require you to write down codes on paper and then organize them in an order that makes sense.
The base is filled with documents and information about the mission. In the secret areas, you will discover Orochi’s real interests. In times of madness, you will also have access to data from the character’s past. But what is true? It will be up to you to determine what is real in this story and to know what you are fighting against.
Graphically the game is awesome and does an excellent job of creating the Martian environment, including all the claustrophobia of relying on space suits and pressurized buildings. Another positive point is how Moons of Madness can use light and shadows to create an even more immersive experience, at various times you will be in dark places and think twice before turning on your flashlight because sometimes the dark is better. The scenarios deserve full attention! Because there are extremely rich in detail and help to tell the story that is being unfolded.
In terms of sound Moons of Madness is stunning, the game has an awesome soundtrack and it brings a great immersion to the environment, it reminds me of the soundtrack from Resident Evil 1 where the game has very subtle music on the background just the right amount to give you the creeps, the sound effects themselves are also very competent. And it is through the sound effects that you feel the protagonist’s mental integrity diminishing as madness seems to take hold, this occurs in the form of whispers, noises coming from nowhere and the dialogues that Shane has with himself. As already mentioned in the first paragraph, this is an example of a game to be played with good headphones and to enjoy first-hand all the terror and madness that the sounds of the game bring.
Moons of Madness is an FPS horror game that has influences from other established genre titles, such as those from the Amnesia series, SOMA and an environment that resembles Alien: Isolation and it is certainly a very fun experience with several “jump scares”, perfect for playing alone at home with good headphones. The game has a tense and thought-provoking story that is worth knowing, a pity that does not last as long as we would like. But how the gameplay puts us to experience the routine of this space engineer, fiddling with equipment full of buttons, creating chemical formulas to solve a puzzle is undoubtedly very fun and immersive. It is up to us to decide if what we see through Shane Newehart is real or if he has gone mad thanks to the isolation he has undergone on this mission. It is an excellent choice for fans of horror games and puzzles and fans of H. P. Lovecraft.
Some details are worth a mention, things like being able to choose if the camera will simulate like you were walking (This is optional because some people could get motion sickness with it), to achieve full immersion on this game it will one depend on you, it is really inserting that they show you how would it be the routine of a space-engineer. I’m usually not really into games of “hide-and-seek” that to fight a boss you have to run from it, but this one got me hooked, I think it was the theme, I’m fascinated by space and also a massive fan of Lovecraft.
Extra: a funny story that happened whilst I was playing, I got to this very tense part of the game right? When the only sounds that were coming from my headphones were my footsteps… When suddenly I start hearing a baby crying! Then I thought… oh, that’s perfect! nothing creeps me out more than a freaking baby crying when there should not be any babies around! But… I removed my headphones and it was just my neighbours’ baby crying… I gave a break from the game for a few hours hahaha…