Tag Archives: Inception

Fulfilling Johnny’s last wish to go to the moon in To the Moon

to the moon gd final thoughts impressions

If thought Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition was a surprising palette cleanser to the lackluster The Incredibles, then I have to imagine this is an even stranger, grander change of direction. Yup, I followed up shooting pig cops in their bacon strip faces and quipping once amusing pop culture quotes with a heavy expedition through an ill man’s mind. In fact, I had wanted to play this last January, as that seemed to be a month where I was experiencing a bunch of those much-discussed indie titles, like Gone Home and Journey. Alas, that never happened, but here we are a year later, ready to give this four-hour tale of a man’s dying wish its due.

Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts work for Sigmund Corp. and have unique jobs: by entering patients’ heads and altering memories, they can give people whatever they want, with implemented memories affecting or creating new ones, all on a path to the desired result. Please note, this only happens through the memories, as you are not actually changing what happened in someone’s life. Think of it as…wish fulfillment. As far as I can tell, this service is mostly used for patients on their deathbeds.

In To the Moon, Rosalene and Watts must fulfill the lifelong dream of the dying Johnny Wyles, which is the game’s namesake: he wants to go there, though he’s not sure why. The doctors then insert themselves into an interactive compilation of his memories–think of the shared dreaming idea from Inception–and traverse backwards through his life via mementos to plant the seed of being an astronaut where best. Naturally, there are a few hiccups, along with Johnny’s quickly deteriorating health.

To the Moon is built on the RPG Maker XP engine, a program used to create 16-bit role-playing games in the classic sprite-based style of Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. That said, To the Moon is not an RPG. There is no inventory system or party system or way to gain experience, though the really quick joke early on about a turn-based battle against a squirrel was amusing. The game’s focus is more on puzzle solving; you do this by finding key memento objects which will allow you to go deeper into Johnny’s memories, and then collecting five pips of energy to break into it. Once you do, there’s a relatively simple yet satisfying tile-flipping puzzle. Later on, there’s a one-off section where you can shoot projectiles and have to avoid traps, but it doesn’t last long and is more cumbersome than anything. It broke a bit of the atmosphere, to say the least.

To the Moon‘s soundtrack, featuring a theme song by Laura Shigihara and the remainder of the piano-driven tunes by Kan Gao, has been praised by many critics. And rightly so. It’s soft when it needs to be, as well as deeply brooding and uplifting. When it swells, I couldn’t help but feel myself inhaling and holding my breath. The soundtrack is its own beast and a special part of the game, dictating the way scenes play out, since you can’t get a ton of facial reactions and such. When I first booted up To the Moon, I sat at its title screen for a few minutes, playing with the moonlight, but really mostly listening. It makes a fantastic first impression and never lets up.

I found To the Moon to be fantastic, and I’m annoyed I dragged my feet on it for so long. I wish I had been able to play it all in one session–it’s around four hours long–but I started it late in the evening and had to return to it the next night. The writing is smart, heartfelt, and funny all at once, save for a Doctor Who joke I didn’t grok, and everything gels together–the music, the graphics, the puzzles, the pacing. Yup, even that horse-riding section. Since I love all things memory-based, such as Remember Me and Inception, I did find the explanations for how the memory implementation works here a little contrived, but I went along anyway; it’s more about the characters than the science.

You really don’t come across that many games willing to tackle the themes of old age, illness, love, regret, sacrifice, and playing god, all while doing it in reverse, which is why To the Moon is exceptional. It’s a story worth seeing unfold.

Remember Me, this futuristic Neo-Paris, and building your own combos

remember me original

First and foremost, this is Remember Me, the 2013 debut from Dontnod Entertainment, not the 2010 American romantic coming of age drama film starring Robert Pattinson and a forced, offensive 9/11 plot twist. Which I’ve not actually seen, but sometimes you really can’t avoid spoilers for anything in this day and age. Anyways, the game is its own thing, been sitting on my PlayStation 3 for many months now, and so far pretty fun, though I’m only up to Chapter Four at this point.

In Remember Me, you play as Nilin, an Errorist imprisoned in the Bastille Fortress and on the path to having her memory completely wiped by Memorize, a corporation that invented a new brain implant called the Sensation Engine (Sensen), which enables roughly 99% of the population to share their memories on the net, as well as remove unhappy ones. A mysterious man called Edge helps her escape the prison and reach the slums of Neo-Paris, where Nilin meets up with fellow Errorist Tommy. Between them and the turned bounty hunter Olga Sedova, Nilin has plenty of friends to help fill in her memory gaps and get her back on the path to revealing Memorize for all its evil and taking them down.

Gameplay is a combination of handholdy new Tomb Raider, that fluid, bouncy combat from Batman: Arkham Asylum, and…well, there’s no third thing to really compare its futuristic, atmospheric setting and tone. Not like Blade Runner, not like Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Remember Me does that really well on its own, offering hints of triumph and despair at the same time without forcing either down your throat. Either way, those first two attributes are far from perfect, but work okay enough to keep me going from one locale to another and see what bonkers big baddie Nilin runs into next or what trick of technology is on offer in this alley or that marketplace.

First, there’s exploration. Though saying that is not very accurate. Remember Me is extremely linear, with a main path to follow, but there are, on occasion, a side path to venture down, often to find collectibles or power-ups. Some areas come coupled with a digital screenshot of that area from a different perspective, highlighting where a hidden stash is, and it’s up to you to figure out where it is and how to get it–I don’t think I’ve missed any of these yet, they are effortless at best. When it comes time to climbing up stacks of crates and leaping from pipe to pipe just like Lara Croft…well, every single action is forecast for you with an orange arrow showing where to go next. You literally cannot get lost in these parts, and instead of using the environment to indicate these things or letting the player experiment, the game simply shows you where to shimmy, where to jump, when to climb. It’s mindless and disappointing, especially when you consider some of the neat-looking, neon-tinted locales ripe for exploring.

And then there’s combat, the solution to enemies. Players can create and customize Nilin’s combos in the Combo Lab, which uses four families of fighting moves called Pressens that can be reorganized by creating chains, earned through gaining PMP (Procedural Mastering Power). The four Pressen families are as so: “Regen” (healing), “Power” (damage), “Chain” (duplication and doubling of previous moves), and “Cooldown” (regeneration of S-Pressen energy). Evidently, Transistor took a note from Remember Me as there are 50,000 possible Pressen combinations. Anyways, this probably sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is, because, unfortunately, Nilin is rarely fighting one on one, and these combos require specific timing to nail, which is always ruined when two to three other enemy goons are trying to kick her from behind. You spend more time Batman-flipping and flopping from one guy to another than punching. So boo to that. I mostly get by with this astoundingly deep combo attack: Square, Square, and then Square again. You also get some special attacks like being able to repeatedly attack or perform a stunning shockwave, as well as able to shoot projectiles via the Spammer and Junk Bolt add-ons. I love the idea of building your own combos, but so far, the majority of the fighting scenarios aren’t set up for them.

Oh, and there’s memory remixing, though I’ve only gotten to do this once so far. Basically, you enter the memory of someone and start tweaking minor things to change it for the bigger picture. It’s a puzzle, and you can rewind and fast-forward to see how things unfold. A bit like Inception, which is just fine by me; hopefully I’ll get to do it a few more times before the credits roll.

So yeah, I’m not thrilled with the exploring or combat, and yet I’m going to keep playing. There’s just something about Remember Me, some remarkably neat ideas buried under blander by-the-book concepts to keep the game accessible to a wider audience. Plus, you get to play as a strong, non-sexualized female lead, very much capable of taking matters into her own hand, and that’s not something you come across too often in videogames. It should be appreciated, experienced. I’ll be back with more once I’m done with the game; based on the Trophies list, I think I’m about halfway through it. Get ready, Neo-Paris. I’m returning for more.

Stop dreaming about the Inception videogame spin-off

…cause it might be happening. And that just really puts a damper on a great thing, an original and wonderful IP that is now on its way down the ; they can’t just let things be. Here’s what Inception filmmaker Christopher Nolan had to say about it all during a press conference celebrating the movie’s debut in Italy:

“We are looking at doing is developing a videogame based on the world of the film, which has all kinds of ideas that you can’t fit into a feature film. That’s something we’ve been talking about and are looking at doing long term, in a couple of years.”

Hmm. Sounds like to me that someone dove deep into his dreams and planted this idea there to grow slowly and carefully. ::ahem cough:: Cobb ::cough cough:: Right. Well, I don’t want this to happen, and here’s why: it works better as a movie than a videogame. Sure, you can see aspects here and there where it is obvious to do something videogame-like; for instance, the dreams within a dream within a dream all feature unique, starkingly different landscapes, and that’s what videogame developers excel at, creating a snow world and then a fire world and a lush jungle world. Heck, Ariadne’s job would be more or less Little Big Planet, which already exists, so go play that. Then the bulk of action feels like a third-person cover-based shooter, but it could also dabble in Metal Gear Solid stealth. See, there’s just too much to pull from, and no clear direction or idea as to how an Inception videogame should be created. The only glimmer of hope here is that it won’t be a rushed licensed game pushed down the factory line to get it out on time to coincide with the movie’s release date. Something good could be done, but it just doesn’t need to. The movie–and the world(s) within–was more than enough.

Besides, didn’t they already make an Inception videogame?

Methinkstheydid.