Just wrapped up with To the Moon, a retro graphical interactive story with some puzzle elements and extremely light action sequences, and I have extremely mixed feelings about it, its a wonderful story that everyone should buy and experience most defiantly, but its really just an interactive story any real attempt to call it a great game makes me want to scream foul.
If that sentance sounded confusing... good... because trying to talk about To the Moon as a video game... is extremely confusing. Very early into the game, it jokes with you for a second that its going to turn into a full on turn based RPG, less than 10 seconds later it lets you in on the joke and your game play for the next 15 minutes or so is what it is for easily three fourths of the game: Click to Walk and Click to Interact.
Go ahead and google some reviews and you'll see their just glowing, its amazing how loved this "game" is.
I just cannot, in good conscience call it a great game... The story is wonderful, moving, human, organic, mysterious where it should be, ambiguous in an interesting way. Similarly the graphics and music are masterful, sprite style graphics with lovingly hand drawn backrounds with a few hand drawn cutscene-ish sections that are beyond gorgeous and the music fits all of that and plays with and feeds into the emotions of the scenes with master strokes. BUT. The game-play... is not fun, its not interesting, its not clever... its just plain bad. Super bad.
A large portion of the game consists of clicking to walk, and then clicking to interact on something, even this is not done very well as the character you're controlling will often drift oddly (walk backward or to the side for a moment before turning) or try to path wrongly to where you clicked, but even not done well, this is the best of the game-play. For the first section of the game, you need to interact with or find specific locations or objects to move on, that's actually very fun because its all exploration and story and since the game looks wonderful and is written superbly and the music that plays while you do so is sublime... its a joy; however as you complete each stage you need to solve a "lights out" style puzzle to continue. It's so out of place that it just completely blows my mind, there is absolutely no reason to inject something like that into your story to artificially make it more gamey. The puzzles thankfully are very quick but even when the story ramps up and the exploration dies off a bit you continue to have to solve these puzzles again and again. Yuck. There are a few other game situations that actually change the control scheme a bit, like riding a horse or playing whack-a-mole, these sequences again are short but not particularly sweet, again the controls are loose and muddy, not that it really matters as there is literally no difficulty. These are defiantly forgivable as one-offs but really add nothing to the story, and end up just feeling very low in value.
It's all a great shame because had To the Moon had all the wonderfulness it already has plus some solid gameplay... whew... I dunno, it would be so good that its probably not possible to have happened. Maybe its impossible to separate or change To the Moon in any way shape or form, and much like the basis of the story it self, how much would change? And how much would remain the same?
Game-play aside, if you can even bear the thought of the words "interactive story" or just want something different, something that actually has characters and a plot and a setting and a story.... by the love of all that you find holy, buy this "game". Its a true masterpiece in every which way, except for... you know... the game part.