Moons of Madness is a failed attempt to mix Lovecraftian horror and science-fiction even though it has great potential in the latter.
Title: Moons of Madness
Developer: Rock Pocket Games
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed on), Windows PC, Xbox One
Release date: PC (October 22, 2019), Consoles (March 24, 2020)
The science-fiction elements of Moons of Madness are the clearest and most enjoyable moments in the game. Unfortunately, science fiction is not the only genre in the spotlight as Lovecraftian horror attempts to fit as well. Both genres are very strong on their own, but Moons of Madness makes them mix like oil and water.
The Lovecraft elements to this cosmic horror are weak due to their poor delivery and convoluted plot. Even though the science-fiction traits are the strongest, it does not mean they are without their flaws.
The Start of a Hopeful Nightmare
Moons of Madness starts strong before it becomes bogged down by the rising action. You take control of Shane Newheart, an engineer for the company Orochi. Shane wakes up to the Orochi Mars station covered in strange tentacles, and many of his coworkers gone. A strange women’s voice can also be heard throughout the beginning of this nightmare that comes into play later on in the story. In an instant, this nightmare is ended by Shane waking up. The nightmare was exactly that, a nightmare. However, the beginning sequence did set the standard for what would come later.
Once Shane wakes up, he is able to explore the Mars station. The station is brilliantly designed and pay homage to popular science fiction movies. The more I walked around the station, the more I wanted to see. Moons of Madness absolutely nails its environments. The station is exactly what I would expect to be on the Mars surface in a handful of years. Nevertheless, the excitement to explore was stifled with tedious tasks and puzzles.
Puzzle after Puzzle after Puzzle
The majority of gameplay Moons of Madness brings to the table is through puzzles. Most of these puzzles are tedious and fill the empty spaces with what feels like busywork. On the other hand, some of the puzzles are well thought out, and I had a genuinely fun time solving them. The best puzzles were undoubtedly the ones that helmed from the Lovecraft genre. Fetching orbs and locating where others were in the cosmic cave space was entertaining.
On the science-fiction side of things, I got really tired of calibrating solar panels, searching for power cells and rerouting power through nodes very quickly. The only real enjoyment of these science-fiction activities was the interaction I had with the sleek futuristic designs of equipment. Even though the puzzles felt pointless, they really did place me on the surface of Mars. If only the story Moons of Madness told was not so intertwined with numerous plot threads.
Moons of a Mess
At first, Moons of Madness seems to have a straightforward four- to five-hour plot. As it progresses, the game starts to add plot lines from Shane’s past and his present. His history starts to appear to him as hallucinations scattered throughout the story. In addition, he is discovering details about the secrets of the Mars station and some of his fellow colleagues.
The most compelling and cohesive narrative of Moons of Madness is the one associated with the Mars station and what occurs to it about halfway through the game. Additional details of the Mars station story are piled on at the back end and through even more hours or written logs. From terminals to journals, Moons of Madness is full of reading material that sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t add to the world.
A Bad Culmination of Madness
Moons of Madness did a great job at drawing me in within the first ten minutes of the game. Its realistically designed Mars station and equipment also made me want to continue the exploration of the Mars surface.
As the plot progressed and the gameplay turned to dull tasks, I was left wondering what the hell was going on in the narrative. Even though I was able to enjoy specific parts of the storyline, I wasn’t able to connect all the dots through multitudes of reading. These traits, paired with the choppy framerates and anticipated jump scares, make Moons of Madness disappointing in almost every aspect.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.