To The Moon Nintendo Switch Review

I'm not crying, you're crying 😭

By Paul Hunter

I'm sure we all have that one game our friends have been bugging us to play for years. For me, it's To The Moon, the indie darling from producer Kan Gao and his studio, Freebird Games. I've heard time and again it has a wonderful, emotional story that I simply must experience, and it's Canadian made so even more reason to play it right?

Amazingly enough, it's been almost a decade since To The Moon originally released on PC, and yet, still today I see it mentioned in my social feeds. With the game now out on Nintendo Switch (I've always preferred console gaming), I knew it was the perfect time to finally see what all the talk is about. As you might expect, after I told my friends I'm playing it they were... over the moon *wink*.

Now that I've finished the game, I can understand why fans love it so much. The story is well written, but more than that it touches upon sensitive topics such as the autism spectrum, death and heartbreak with grace. To The Moon is not your traditional game by any stretch of the imagination—gameplay takes a clear backseat to story—but it's a memorable title every RPG or visual novel fan should experience.

To The Moon details

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Freebird Games
Publisher: X.D. Network
Genre: Role-playing, Adventure, Puzzle
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

To live a second life

To The Moon sets you on a journey to explore the tragic life of Johnny Wyles, an elderly man on his deathbed who's dying wish is to... travel to the moon. You play the dual roles of Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts from Sigmund Corp., a company using technology to artificially create memories that fulfill wishes.

The strange thing about Johnny is he has no idea why he wants to visit the moon, he just does. As the two doctors, your job is to travel through his memories and manipulate them so that his younger self actually does make it to outer space. In the process, you discover the reason he's obsessed with moon travel, which is quite an emotional beat.

Exploring the finer details of how this story unfolds would ruin the impact, and that is the reason to play this game. I'll just summarize by saying it's a deeply moving tale that made me think, laugh and get more than a few watery eyes. It's rare for a game to hit me as hard as this one did, which says a lot about the superb writing and pacing.

Not much gameplay

While To The Moon is a video game, it really doesn't offer a whole lot of gameplay.

You begin by visiting Johnny's recent memories, exploring small 2D maps and doing standard RPG stuff like talking to NPCs or interacting with objects. Doing so fills up memory orbs that let you travel further into his past—and this pattern continues until you finally reach his childhood memories.

The only other mechanic is the tile-flipping puzzle you have to complete each time you head deeper into Johnny's memory. They're fairly easy, usually only requiring about three to six moves and never taking more than a minute or two to complete.

In a funny twist, during one sequence your characters actually get stats and fight turn-based RPG style, but the tease only lasts a moment. It's slightly disappointing at first, but I thought it was a good joke.

In other titles I might complain about the lack of interactivity, but To The Moon is all about story first. The simple investigations and light puzzles serve only to give you a short breather between the weighty cutscenes that don't shy away from sensitive topics. But don't worry about getting bogged down, Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts are a silly pair that provide comic relief (at just the right times) to lift the mood.

Charming presentation (and a kick ass soundtrack)

As a gamer who grew up in the 90s, the retro RPG-style graphics of To The Moon really appeal to me. The environments are bright and beautiful with pixel-perfect detail, and I love the simple character animations.

The original PC art assets, which were built using the RPG Maker toolkit, have been completely remade for the Switch port—and they look fantastic. The refreshed visuals strike the perfect balance of modernizing the game's look without compromising the retro appeal that fans fell in love with.

Complementing the graphics is a superb piano soundtrack by Gao, along with a wonderfully poignant theme song performed by Laura Shigihara of Plants vs. Zombies fame. The tunes are all excellent—including a strangely hypnotic one featuring just two notes—and a new Music Box function lets you replay them whenever you want.

The Verdict

I kinda figured I'd enjoy To The Moon given how much my friends have been pestering me to play it. Little did I know just how good the game is though; it makes me wish I played it years ago. But hey, it's never too late to experience something phenomenal.

At just five hours of game time, you can easily beat it over a weekend and trust me, it'll be a great weekend. Just make sure to keep the box of tissues handy.

Final Score: 8/10 - Great

A review code for the game was provided by the publisher.