On first glance, The Mooseman looked like a survival horror thriller along the lines of Kholat or Slenderman. But when I saw the description which said a 2D puzzle scroller, I was intrigued. Decided to pick it and play it over the weekend. Does it stand up to the weekend test? Let’s find out.
The Mooseman is an atmospheric 2D adventure game, developed by Vladimir Beletsky and Mikhail Shvachko (they call themselves Morteshka) and published by Sometimes You. The game will be released on the PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch on July 18, 2018.
Story & Narrative
The story of the game is the it’s strongest point. The story follows the myth of the titular Mooseman, and explores how the mysterious lands of Perm chud’s tribes explained the day-night cycle. The core game is built around that one myth, while the rest of it ties into exploring the lore of the lost pagan tribe, by exposing the player to various artifacts and rhymes and creatures. While the artifacts focus on real-world evidence of the culture; The rhymes, the song, and the creatures delve into the actual stories, taken at face value.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Having said that, The Mooseman is not a walking simulator at all. In fact, the game is a bonafide 2D puzzler and stays true to its genre for the entirety of the game. As the Mooseman, you can see worlds in both the real and its spectral form (using the dual world mechanic) which you allows you to overcome obstacles and solve puzzles. In the middle of the game, you also acquire the ability to create a shield around yourself which protects you against malevolent spirits. Not all spirits are evil though, and some spirits help you by either crawling towards you or away from you, an interesting mechanic which the game leaves you to figure out on your own. And if you think that’s a spoiler, there are plenty of puzzles in the game, which you need to figure out, with no help at all.
It’s commendable that the entire game is based around those 2 basic mechanics, something that you don’t see much in the time of deeper than deep multi combo 2D indie games these days. It is worth noting though that the game clocks in at somewhere around 4 hours, the game does not take more than one sitting to finish. Which means that the banality of the 2 mechanics does not kick in. And by the end of the game, you would have unlocked most of the trophies apart from some scenario specific ones, which you can achieve by replaying the concerned chapter.
A nice little twist is the fact that the rhymes are not actually locked, but visible in their native markings, and are translated when you actually unlock them. Maybe a scholar would be willing to actually translate them and find out how accurate they really are.
Graphics, Sound & Performance
While The Mooseman, scores highly on the narrative, it scores very little on the art front. Exquisite and exotic artwork is something that you take for granted from an indie game these days. That, however, is not the case with this 2 man project, one of whom I am assuming did the programming and the other the research.
The sprites, the characters, the backgrounds look little better than the cave paintings they take inspiration from, and sometimes its hard to pick out the intricacies of a particular level. There are some really lovely panels that have you reaching for the share button, but the art is not consistent and it hurts an otherwise great game.
The same is true for the sound in the game, which felt like noise for the most part. The voice over during the rhymes and songs you unlock is decent but is in the native tongue of the culture, and I would have preferred an option to switch that to English.
At a tiny size of 619 MB, The Mooseman, in my opinion, is a herald of how myths and legends will be told in the future. It’s a proper game and lasts a very entertaining 4 hours. I hope more games like it are made. I just hope they could have had better-looking sprites.