Very few times do you get the opportunity to feel truly educated and captivated at the same time. That's what The Mooseman does to you. Full review within...
A Mythological Experience for an Unknown People
When you think about gaming what are the first types of games that come to mind? More often than not, a AAA game or series comes to mind. That’s because those games have the backing and advertising to be at the forefront of your mind. Often times, games like those don’t have a powerful message. That’s reserved for passionate indie developers like Sometimes You and the Morteshka team, that created The Mooseman.
The Mooseman is a 2D mythology-based game that schools the gamer on the finno-ugric tribe, known as the Chud. There isn’t much set up to this game. Instead, the developers share their reason and passion for this game by explaining that you’re about to take part in a game that covers a very ancient civilization.
In The Mooseman, you play as the titular character, as you leave your tribe to venture off across the 3 layers of the universe. Throughout your journey, you discover more about the plot of the story by collecting ancient Chud artifacts and reaching checkpoint-like structures, that share stories and context about what is going on. You end up discovering that the world was created from an egg-shell by the God, Yen. Within that shell, three layers were formed, the Lower Layer (where the dead reside), the Middle Layer (where the living reside), and the Upper Layer (where the ancient Gods reside).
You start your journey by navigating your way through the perilous and somewhat terrifying land of the Lower Layer. Using wit and the Mooseman abilities you’re able to survive unbelievable creatures, hoards of the dead, and various traps and pitfalls.
At a very early age, I became fascinated with mythology. It started with Greek mythology, since that was near and dear to my culture, but that fascination swelled to encompass all of mythology. So, imagine my delight when I had the opportunity to experience The Mooseman. Often times, developers adapt and stretch mythological stories to meet their own, somewhat tarnishing the legacy. At no point did I ever feel like that was the case with The Mooseman. The Morteshka team built a game that truly honors a forgotten people, by sharing the stories that were important to them and their existence. Instead of making their stories work for the story they were working on, they built around the stories, which makes all the difference.
Simplistic Gameplay Gives Way to Clever Puzzles
Since The Mooseman is a 2D side-scroller, it’s easy to assume that the gameplay is rather simplistic. That’s a pretty fair assessment. This game doesn’t allow you to jump, at times it allows you to shoot a bow, or guard yourself with a shield, but the typical action is switching between the real world and the mythological world to see the grandiose characters and artwork. That doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging, though.
The Mooseman requires a healthy balance of switching between the two worlds, paying attention to your surroundings, timing, and interacting with the creatures of this world to solve puzzles. Once you master all of that, the game seems to get easier, but it takes some practice to accomplish. In fact, there may be several times where you’re racking your brain on how to successfully complete a puzzle, only to find yourself on YouTube to see how the pros do it. I’m not saying I did that, but I’m not not saying I did that.
Jokes aside, The Mooseman may have limited functionality, in terms of its gameplay, but it’ll definitely surprise with how the developers use it to challenge you. The puzzles aren’t overly difficult, but they aren’t so easy that you’ll breeze through it.
Music and Artistry Take Center-stage
If mythology isn’t really your thing (which is crazy), you have to appreciate the beautiful way the world of The Mooseman was crafted. The entire game feels like the movement of a cave-wall painting, which adds to that mythological feeling. The usage of this style makes it feel like we’re experiencing something special, almost sacred. It allows The Mooseman to truly take on a new layer of intrigue and etherealism.
Going hand-in-hand in making it feel sacred is the jaw-dropping music. Often times, I felt like I was going to a gothic cathedral with how the deep, throaty voices were belting out a singular note. It made the situation feel forbidden, dangerous. Later, in other situations, the music would turn somewhat lighter to match the situation or it would shut off completely to allow for dramatic effect. Regardless of that change, though, the music (or lack thereof) still kept The Mooseman feeling like the sacred, ethereal game it needed to be.
The Switch Effect
You may not know it, but The Mooseman actually released on Steam in 2017. It earned rave reviews for everything mentioned above. However, it just now made its way to Nintendo Switch, so let’s get into how it works on the mobile console. For starters, the price of The Mooseman is $6.99, which is a pretty paltry sum for a game of this caliber.
Another important factor when buying on Switch is the storage space. Thankfully, The Mooseman only takes up 553MB, which is nothing when you compare it to most AAA ports. There aren’t any JoyCon functions to go along with the Switch port, other than the standard detaching them from the console to play the game on the tiny screen or on the big screen.
Although, that’s the case for most indie and AAA ports. Typically, the only company to use the full faculties of the Switch is Nintendo, themselves. For a game like The Mooseman, they don’t necessarily need the frills on the Nintendo Switch, they just need a captive audience to share their stories with.