I think it’s time to finally do what we came here to do and… er… trawl through a guy’s memories until we’re able to make him believe that in the past he went to the moon at some point. Yeahhhhhh.
By the by, To The Moon has just released on iOS, so if you’ve got an iPhone and you fancy playing it, it’s only a couple of quid. It strikes me as the sort of game that would transition fairly neatly from PC to mobile, so I imagine it’ll be almost exactly the same as the Steam version I’m playing here.
Back to the story, we return to Johnny’s recent memory, where we’ve just had a chat with the man himself and learned that we’re going to be hopping backwards through his lifetime in order to alter the course of his history.
I investigate the paper rabbit in front of me and pick up a note about the moon, which I’m guessing I’ll be able to read later. Apparently we have to prepare the memento (the rabbit) before we can use it to access an earlier memory.
‘Preparing’ the memento consists of a simple puzzle: flip the squares of the picture row by row until the whole thing is displayed. It takes me a moment to work out which side of the squares I’m supposed to be displaying, but we get there.
Now that we’ve prepared the item, we can use it for memory-hopping. Just as we’re about to head off into Johnny’s past…
Actually a very reasonable question.
Well, that’s reassuring.
With Johnny’s concerns completely addressed, Rosalene vanishes back into the past. We come out in his house, where he’s playing his own version of ‘For River’. I really like that he and the kids have their own versions; his sounds simpler but is actually more complex in terms of its musical structure, since he’s older and probably more experienced, but the kids’ is a take on the simple theme which is more embellished because they’ve got four hands between them. I’m not sure which version I prefer, but Johnny’s has this kind of sincerity and emotional resonance as I watch him play it, perhaps because I’m starting to work out that it probably means a lot to him (remember, the piece is ‘For River’, and we’ve established that his wife’s name was River). Neil, observant as ever, wonders what the heck is up with all the rabbits and suggests that perhaps they ought to have checked Johnny’s record for any kind of psychopathic tendencies.
Johnny stops playing abruptly; Rosalene reassures Neil that it must just be a part of the memory. They watch uncertainly for a moment, then Johnny hammers a random cluster of notes, prompting Neil to reiterate that the guy might not be totally stable. Rosalene tries to keep things on track by giving us an objective: find a memento in this memory which we can use to hop to an earlier one.
I have to establish five memory links, whatever those are; I’ll just wander around the house and interact with as much stuff as I can. Should be a way of getting some flavour text, learning a bit more about Johnny and his history, and hopefully triggering some of these ‘links’.
The paper rabbit is the first link; Neil has a bit of a chat with it, taunting it for having not only one, but two colours compared to all its albino cousins. I’m not able to interact with Johnny himself, but I examine the clock over on the right side of the room and get another link for my trouble as well as a note on the clock. That reminds me: we got a note about the moon, too…
I wonder whether these are actually useful hints or just a bit of background. The clock never ticking might come into play at some point; perhaps there’s a reason it no longer makes a sound, which we’ll see in an earlier memory.
Examining the umbrella reveals that it’s the memento we’re here for. We need the five memory links to crack some sort of forcefield around it, so I guess that… sort of explains what that’s about. I go hunting for the others and find that I can’t leave the house; the only exit from this area is up the stairs, so I check it out. Bizarrely, Johnny’s up there despite being on the piano downstairs. I guess these memories are more like snapshots of a few hours or days in Johnny’s life, so there might be multiple versions of him in the different areas covering all the events of that time.
Attempting to interact with this Johnny causes him to disappear and reappear over by the canvases, which are blank in this memory. The good doctors don’t much want to talk to him, but I examine the flowers nearby for another memory link.
The backpack, while interesting, isn’t a link.
The olives, however, give me link number four. Five is harder to find, because I keep walking past it and not clicking in quite the right place, but I eventually work out that it’s the Hans Christian Andersen book.
Links established, we break the barrier around the umbrella, our next memento.
To solve the puzzle, I flip the diagonal and then the centre rows of both the X and Y axes. I’m not sure what this gameplay mechanic is supposed to represent Neil or Rosalene actually doing to the memento in order to prepare it, but I’ll roll with it.
Looks as if we’re only making very small jumps at the moment; the timeline at the top shows that we’re heading towards the beginning of the most recent ‘Old-Man-Johnny’ period in little increments. Rosalene wants to move faster, but Neil tells her to enjoy the scenery, which in this case is a rainy scene outside the lighthouse. I wonder whether all these memories are actually going to be important? I mean, the last one didn’t seem all that significant; he just played the piano for a bit and then stopped. I suppose memory’s a weird thing, and I know I definitely remember some really odd and totally insignificant moments very clearly but find myself totally unable to recall important things.
I guess there are memory hops and then there are memory leaps. It makes sense, I suppose; we’ll need to find a memento linked to a time further in Johnny’s past so we can actually get to the good stuff. We don’t want to miss anything important, but I’d imagine that anything that he’s kept hold of for a long time must attach to an important memory.
I didn’t even notice the platypus next to Johnny – I was trying to examine the man himself – but I’ll take that. I try to check out the lighthouse, but it seems that memory links can work in stages, since I need to find three outside before I can enter and presumably find the final two.
River’s grave is in front of Johnny and gives me link number… three? Could have sworn I only got one from the platypus, but whatever. It opens the lighthouse, anyway.
As we enter, Johnny tells River’s grave that something is ‘finished’. Sounds a bit weird at first, but he says that he’ll now be able to watch over ‘her’ every day. I don’t know who the her is; is there a daughter we don’t know about? Maybe his carer is of more personal importance to him than she first appeared. The background music is absolutely lovely in this bit, but I can’t work out which tune from the OST it is! I think it might be ‘Moonwisher’; it’s hard to tell because the rain gives the in-game track a bit of a different sound. (While I was looking, though, I did manage to find the RPG battle theme from last time!)
Oh, wow. I don’t know who Anya is or what exactly he means by any of this, but something about those words made me just feel some stuff, man. Rosalene, who’s stayed by the door and listened while Neil runs ahead, approaches Johnny – and it seems she’s turned her invisibility off, because he can see her this time.
It’s a hell of a lot more work for me when I have to upload lots more screenshots, but I’m coming to realise that this game should probably be allowed to just speak for itself in some of these conversations, so here’s Johnny and Rosalene’s discussion, unabridged and uninterrupted.
With that, Rosalene vanishes from his visibility again and heads into the lighthouse. We get a note about Anya, though it says only that she’s ‘somebody Johnny and River cared for’.
Evidently, Neil’s gone and collected all the links he needs, so he shoots straight off without waiting for Rosalene. Given the size of the room, link number four isn’t too hard to find: the lighthouse’s lamp (broken). Examining it causes another memory-Johnny to show up.
When Rosalene tries to interact with this Johnny, he simply closes his eyes and turns his head away. That gives us link number five, so let’s follow Neil through the next memento.
Just to give a better impression of how these puzzles work, here’s the whole thing from start to solved:
I click the two top rows on the Y axis, then the middle row of the X axis, which causes all the squares to flip around to the right orientation.
We hop through the platypus and come out… well. The track that plays during this scene is ‘Born A Stranger’, and I really do recommend listening to the OST as you read through this because it might just be the best example I’ve ever come across of a game’s soundtrack really adding so much to the impact of the story. (I’m actually not sure that it is exactly the same track as in the video; it’s a very slightly different key and there’s a constant heartbeat sound underneath, but the melody is the same.) This is another scene I’m just going to put up in full, and I don’t imagine it’ll be the last. Something tells me this game is going to get emotional pretty fast.
I actually do get the option to just skip the search and leave with Neil, but I opt to stay and listen to Johnny playing his version of ‘For River’. I think Rosalene is wondering whether Johnny’s carer might be this ‘Anya’, but what her connection is to John and River remains a mystery (she did explicitly say she wasn’t his daughter, but you never know). I also think that when Johnny told River’s grave that something was finished, he was probably talking about the house she asked him to build, which is quite possibly the one he lives in now. Anyway, Johnny and River’s conversation must be the highlight of this game so far for me; knowing that it won’t be long before River’s gone gives it a real sting. Neil’s opted out of the emotional stuff, being ‘too manly’, but… I get the feeling I’m gonna feel a loooot of stuff before this game’s over.
Since that was a pretty long conversation we just sat through, let’s call it a day there for now. I think it ought to be obvious by now, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t end by saying… man, I really like this game so far.