Moons of Madness – “Mars sucks” – Review

Gare – Monday, October 28, 2019 9:33 PM
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Moons of Madness is a game that offers up a rather intriguing idea: let’s do Lovecraftian horror in space. “Cosmic horror meets spooky science-fiction” sounds great on paper, and besides, who doesn’t love a creepy space – sorry, Mars – station where every other corridor is poorly illuminated and things go bump in the night? Well, let’s just say that the only thing you’ll hear go bump in the night is my head against the nearest wall.

Call of Planthulhu

The overall premise of being stranded on a Mars base and having to tackle Lovecraftian horrors is nothing if not promising – it’s positively brimming with potential waiting to be tapped. However, Moons of Madness wastes no time letting you know exactly what kind of an experience it’s going to be by throwing a cheap jump scare in your face in the first five minutes. Yes, you read that right. This is a supposedly Lovecraftian horror game that immediately opens with a jump scare. Anyway, this was when I promptly rolled my eyes and thought to myself “this is gonna be one of those, isn’t it”. Oh, yes. It’s one of those all right. A walking simulator with one or two interesting puzzles, a bunch of jump scares and a forgettable plot that, for some reason, feels the need to clumsily inject a family drama subplot into a story about cosmic gods.

That’s hardly everything, though. The rest of the game is just as trite and tiresome as any other first-person horror title of yesteryear that time has since forgotten. There are multiple characters chattering into your ear throughout your adventures, none of whom you’ll meet and none of whom you’ll come to care about. I even had a hard time keeping track of their names, to be perfectly honest. You have your usual mad scientists doing mad scientist experiments, the plot railroads you through a few boring chase scenes that are about as tense and memorable as doing laundry, and there’s also a “boss fight” that consists of literal quick time events, as well as a brief – and extremely underwhelming – stealth sequence just so the game can pat itself on the back and say it had a stealth sequence. There are killer robots with glowing red eyes, evil plants that, for some reason, take up a good chunk of the overall plotline, as if evil plants are the most interesting things to talk about in a game inspired by Lovecraft (spoilers: they’re not), and some tentacle monster shows up for a few scripted, toothless scares in order to demonstrate how little of a threat it actually poses. You’ll also come across the occasional incomprehensible “Cthulhu chant” – a usual element of Mythos-inspired works – which is sort of the game’s way of reminding you of its own Lovecraftian nature; and you do need to be reminded, as most of the game could’ve just as easily been categorized as a generic Things Go Wrong on a Space Station experience, with the Lovecraftian elements feeling more like a mere afterthought.

The silver lining

There are a few things to like about Moons of Madness, though. The layout and overall architecture of the Mars base occasionally reminded me of Alien: Isolation, and let’s be honest, being reminded of Isolation is never a bad thing. Similarly, there were a handful few moments that I found decently atmospheric, and I’ll admit there was one fairly well-executed jump scare as well. As for the puzzles, I’d say they actually constitute one of the stronger aspects of the game. They do well on the variety front, too: just to name a few examples, one task will have you mix vials of chemicals to produce a poison (this one was a personal favorite), another requires matching up circuits the right way, and yet another needs you to flex your math muscles a little bit. Not too much, mind you, but the fact remains that Moons of Madness gives its players just enough interesting stuff to do to momentarily make them forget how bland and non-scary the rest of the experience is, for indeed, the campaign’s solid repertoire of puzzles unfortunately doesn’t quite save the game from being a largely mediocre, by-the-numbers experience that has all the trappings of a disappointing walking sim.

Final words

Moons of MadnessPlatform: PC, PS4, XBox OneGenre: Action-adventure, Survival HorrorDeveloper: Rock Pocket Games Publisher: Funcom Release: 10/22/2019If you’re looking for something genuinely haunting and memorable, you might want to look elsewhere because Moons of Madness likely won’t satisfy your needs – with its weak storyline, paper-thin characters and heavy reliance on uninspired horror clichés and tiresome jump scares, it’s about as Lovecraftian as an octopus at a Japanese fish market: sure, it’s got tentacles, but not much else.


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