Vladimir Beletsky (studio)
16 July 2018 (released)
25 July 2018
There’s been a trend in gaming for the last ten years, one that focuses the emotional impact of a journey rather than pushing complex gameplay. Games like Braid did this well, focusing on creating atmosphere, developing an emotional attachment through striking visuals and elegant sound design with a compelling and subtle story. Something The Mooseman wants to capitalise on and doing so with a unique concept and aesthetics we’ve rarely seen in video games.
The Mooseman centres on the journey of a traveller, exploring the worlds inspired by Slavic mythology. Players will take on the role of the Mooseman as he traverses the Lower, Middle and Upper world on a personal journey for his tribe. Along his journey the Mooseman will meet a multitude of spirits who dwell among the layers of each world. These spirits guard the vast amount of secrets hidden within the darkness, which only the Mooseman can see. He is able to shift his perspective and be granted sight to observe strange events and reveal hidden codes in the dark.
This is a heavily atmospheric adventure where players will explore expansive and beautifully crafted worlds inspired by Perm animal art. Everything is lovingly hand drawn, with great care and effort going into each and every frame. Despite being drawn in 2D, the world has an immense sense of depth with expert colouring, shading and layering. But it becomes even more glorious when the Mooseman shifts his perspective and sees what images and objects lie within the dark. Hidden codes and images light up with a striking glow, making their presence truly profound.
The Mooseman’s ability to change the world’s perspective is only for aesthetical reasons, but a core gameplay mechanic that works into various set pieces and lateral segments. Players can shift the perspective to reveal any number of hidden objects and NPCs in the environment which they can interact with. One of the most common uses will be to reveal a creature hidden underneath a large rock and by revealing it; the creature will in return follow the Mooseman. This creature and the shifting perspective can be used to create bridges, steps to higher terrains and even a safe spot against enemy NPCs that may be after you.
It’s surprising how many activities and set pieces the developers have managed to get from these very simple mechanics. Allowing players to shift through perspectives to unblock paths while being chased by larger enemies, create passages, bridges and safe areas to avoid danger.
Many elements to the Mooseman from its immense presentation to its intriguing story, captivate players in a highly immersive experience. Gameplay is very simple but enjoyable at key moments and I will praise the developers for creating a wide selection of events and puzzles which centre on one core mechanic.
One of the key things I must bring up in my review is that aside from the staggering presentation and neat shifting mechanic, The Mooseman is for a slow burner. Players will indeed feel the agonising strain of a prolonged journey through other worlds, as there’s plenty of walking to do. While it’s not a tedious as some other games, The Mooseman does deliver a fair share of walking in between events. Even in critical moments or scenes which should be energetic, the playable character just strolls on without a care in the world it seems. Being chased by a bear doesn’t even bring our leading man to as much as jog. But despite the endless amounts of walking, the journey is filled with wondrous sights and sounds to enjoy, some collectables to discover and enough set pieces to break it up.
Although I wish the walking speed was a little faster as during certain moments where backtracking does occur, it can grind on your nerves slightly. Even with all this slow walking, the game will only last around 2 hours. You could stretch it to 3 hours by replaying certain levels and collecting secrets you missed. But it would be very rare not to miss any of them as the level designs is heavily linear and hidden areas are extremely easy to find. There are some nice collectables but no reason to replay the campaign once it’s over.
The Mooseman is quite simple breath-taking with its visuals, soundtrack and compelling narrative structure. While there are some great ideas in terms of gameplay, much of the journey can be slow, tedious and little dull if you decide to do some backtracking for the secret items. Otherwise there’s little to draw you back but as an experience it can be wonderful to observe.
++ Beautiful visuals and sound design
+ Compelling adventure with neat "shift" mechanic
- Walking aspect of the journey can be a little tedious
- Very little replay value and short lenght
A PS4 review copy of The Mooseman was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review