It’s no surprise that heavy horror narratives in video games have risen in popularity over the past decade. One of the most lauded franchises in the Lovecraftian horror space is the Secret World, which was developed by Funcom and has drawn in a cult following of gamers that adore creepy storytelling and well-crafted worlds. In Moons of Madness by Rock Pocket Games and published by Funcom, you expand on the mythos of the beloved Secret World franchise, but will trading on one of Funcom’s most acclaimed titles be enough to entice players, or should they be running scared? Find out more in our Moons of Madness Review.
Horror games can come in many different forms, some of which emphasize battling your way through dangerous creatures, or surviving extreme, overbearing odds. Moons of Madness is neither of those kinds of games. By comparison, Rock Pocket Games’ adventure horror title is closer to an interactive movie, with several puzzles added along the way. The premise generally revolves around you, an engineer named Shane, where your only duty is to ensure that the Mars base known as Trailblazer Alpha stays in order until your new team arrives. As simple of a premise as that is, it wouldn’t be much of a story, or a game, if something didn’t go wrong.
What transpires from that point forward is a mix of psychological horror, with several big jump scares, and mediocre menial tasks that you need to complete to move the plot along. In order to truly get the gist of what’s happening, the story unfolds through cut scenes, conversations, and a lot of various documentation. For those truly interested in getting the most out of your playtime, the various documents will spell out a lot of what is really going on, and point to other plot devices that connect as you progress. Moons of Madness is able to craft a detailed world the can enthrall you in its atmosphere and build up the anticipation for your next scare unlike many other titles out there.
Unfortunately, much of the rest of the game falters to bring any real game play or enjoyable puzzles. Many puzzles simply required that I find a specific item to open a door, whereas, in other situations, I was tasked with utilizing tools in the correct order. For example, one of the earliest tasks required that I carry a power cell with me, placing it in and out of different devices so that they power on. Shortly thereafter you have a lever you carry with you to turn off steaming pipes, and the “puzzles” continue from there. Despite the tasks being simplistic, the real issues are more that they are boring, routine procedures, that may be there to exacerbate the premise that you are all alone, but instead, they detract from what would otherwise be a well-paced adventure-horror story.
Instead, the pacing does pick up at times and lengthens at others. On PC, the mouse controls to pick up integral documents and look over them is somewhat cumbersome. At times, after using the pulse that is mean to mark important items, I would still find that I wasn’t quite sure where to go. At best, I’d have a clear understanding of what I was looking for, and at worst, I would march back over areas I’ve already been to, discharging my pulse in fear I’ve forgotten something critical. Despite the shortcomings I’ve expressed, Moons of Madness will definitely appeal to any gamer who has a penchant for Lovecraft style tales, or those familiar with The Secret World but don’t inflate your expectations by hoping it will garner the same action and satisfaction of either.