To the Moon - Total Recall-meets-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Vrikk wrote:

Spoilers

I would spoiler tag that stuff because hardly anyone has played it yet. Anyways, to give you my thoughts on your questions:

Spoiler:

I think she knew that Johnny had forgotten their first meeting and other things. The rabbits represent the moon and their first meeting to her, so she had to have known he at least forgot something. Because she had fairly extreme Aspergers, it seemed to me that she just couldn't find a way to express that to him.

With that being said, and SPOLIERS AHOY possibly, but what did you guys think of why River was making those rabbits?

Spoiler:

Do you think she knew what happened to her husband in his childhood, or was she just confused why he forgot and was trying both to tell him she loved him, and make him remember her, as much as her condition would allow?

tuffalobuffalo wrote:
Vrikk wrote:

Spoilers

I would spoiler tag that stuff because hardly anyone has played it yet. Anyways, to give you my thoughts on your questions:

Spoiler:

I think she knew that Johnny had forgotten their first meeting and other things. The rabbits represent the moon and their first meeting to her, so she had to have known he at least forgot something. Because she had fairly extreme Aspergers, it seemed to me that she just couldn't find a way to express that to him.

Spoiler:

It was explicitly mentioned late in the game that all those origami rabbits were River's way of telling/reminding Johnny that "I love you". I remember welling up pretty severely after that reveal.

Vrikk wrote:

With that being said, and SPOLIERS AHOY possibly, but what did you guys think of why River was making those rabbits?

Spoiler:

Do you think she knew what happened to her husband in his childhood, or was she just confused why he forgot and was trying both to tell him she loved him, and make him remember her, as much as her condition would allow?

I'll take option number 2.

Great game.

I just finished this, with my last save (apparently at the last possible point, right before launch) at 3 hours 16 minutes. I think....well, light your torches and sharpen your pitchforks, because I'm about to bring the haterade.

1. I enjoyed playing through most of this game
2. I very much disliked the last quarter of it
3. The music was terrible
4. Despite my transition to a very weepy individual after getting married and having kids, I remain stolidly unmoved by this game.

[WARNING: Thar be spoilers below, matey!]

First, the good. It was an interesting concept for a game, and I wish that more games would focus on somewhat more realistic human interactions and relationships, and in that vein it's nice to see something that isn't yet another absurdly-muscled-superman-saves-the-world-with-a-buxom-blond-at-his-side. I enjoyed the gradual unveiling of the story as you travel backward through time, especially the aspect of the mementos taking on more meaning the more you learned about the relationship. On the visual and technical sides, the game was very well-done; I experienced no bugs at all, and the environments looked nice, and character animations were varied and quite good for the hard pixel-count they chose to limit themselves with. I think the decision to go 16-bit sprite was a good one, as it uncluttered the environment and let you focus on the text, which for the most part was believably human and well-written.

With that out of the way, let's move on. The story completely broke down for me after they saved Joey and Eva decided to "move" River in order to effect the necessary changes to take John to the moon and attempt to keep her in his life. What kind of message does it send to go back and make someone's life perfect? Who, if they had the chance, would actually choose to do so? Why was absolutely no attempt made to show any sort of change in John's life (I mean personality-wise) with pretty much every milestone completely altered to its opposite state? To me, this game drew the exact wrong conclusions and held them up as, "This is AWESOME!"

As John's life originally stood, it was poetically tragic. Yes, he lost a brother (and subtextually a mother through consequential estrangement). Yes, he made perhaps stupid choices to wind up with River. Yes, he never really understood how she was expressing her love through the rabbits. But the way the story was told originally is a beautiful love story. Circumstances are overcome. Beautiful houses are built in a location that I would kill to own. It's not like John lost both limbs in the war at 18 and abused his wife due to PTSD until she drank herself to death at 35; this isn't a sad story. Bittersweet, perhaps, but that just makes you enjoy the good parts all the more.

But the game developer decides to go back and make everything perfect. I mean, Stepford perfect. To be honest, when Eva decided to move River and Neil tried to stop her I was into that. And at the time, I really thought that the designer meant for you to see that as inherently wrong and make a statement that way; after all, you had control of Neil, not Eva, and typically player control is used to notate the "correct" course of action. But that's not what the game said. Eva's plan worked, River showed up anyway, and got her "I told you so" moment in on Neil. Okay, then, why the hell did I have to play through the zombie section if that's how things were going to turn out? I thought at first that they were going to take it in this direction: they alter his life, bring Joey back, and John does make it to NASA and eventually the moon. But throughout his life he finds....something missing. Sort of a "when you try to change things you usually only make things worse, let people live their beautiful-but-flawed lives" perspective. Additionally, since it was hinted at that they thought this relationship special enough to break protocol a couple of times, that they would see what their hands wrought, then go back and undo everything, thus breaking protocol by failing to fulfill his wish. Maybe if they wanted to change something nice they could simply alter John's outlook enough so that he could understand River's love expressions, which I think would have been a nice touch.

This plot, in many ways, made me draw comparisons to the movie Once, and never in a good way. I am about to spoil the ending of this movie, but since it's more about Glen Hansard singing awesome music and less about story, I don't think it will lessen your enjoyment of it should you later decide to watch it. See, in the movie Once, the guy had a deep and meaningful relationship with a girl that ended badly, and she moved a few hours away (you can't go that far away on the British Isles...). The girl, very much the same, though her husband was indeed in a different country. At the end, though they've almost gotten together so many times, and very nearly do again, they make the correct decisions: the girl patches it up with her husband (also the father of her daughter), and the guy moves to London to promote his music and end up with his girl again. It's a literary irony, because our decades of Great American Romantic Comedy training tell us that of course they're going to get together and be happy ever after™. What the RomComs never show, of course, are the shattered lives that they leave in their wake (though they typically try to make the significant others out to be such ogres that the audience cheers for it). But which is the better, more realistic, and more responsible option? The Once option. If everyone lived their lives the way people do in Chick Flicks the world would fall apart. How could you trust anyone if they're just going to leave you when a slightly better option comes along? In relationships, business, anything?

I think that idea is fine in escapist fantasies periodically, but To the Moon did not present itself as an escapist fantasy (aside from the obvious of everything only happening in John's head). To the Moon presented itself as a Game With A Point, shouting from the rooftops "I am art!", and so I judge it as such. If it is a farce, then I tip my hat to the designers because it is the most masterfully created one I've ever witnessed; but I sincerely doubt that's the case. So what are we saying when we present that the actual agents in the story (the doctors) make everyone's lives perfect? What's the point the game is trying to make? Not one I'm willing to stand behind.

And how does it even make sense? The game certainly has some fantastic elements (meant in the sense of "fantasy"), but the character interactions are very real-world. But then I'm supposed to assume that when John's life is completely and utterly changed -- his brother lives, his mother stays sane but continues to favor his twin, he doesn't wipe out his entire childhood with pills, and so on -- that his personality isn't altered at all? Aside from his strong desire to go to the moon, he still falls in love with River and even writes the same damn song? This is completely and utterly unbelievable. If nothing else, the mere fact that he has childhood memories would change his attitude, to say nothing of the more major elements.

...and then there's the music. Sweet merciful heavens, that was some bad music. Contrived in every sense of the word, this score made me want to tear my hair out. I wound up almost muting the sound 2/3 of the way through the game (I left it on some just in case I missed something important). This soundtrack is something that screams from every fiber of its being that its composer wanted, more than anything else, to elicit extreme emotional response. The music is so wrapped up in trying to draw out tears that it doesn't find time to actually be music. Or even a score, which doesn't necessarily have to be music, per se. Saccharine, maudlin, choose whatever word you like; I'll probably go with just plain Bad. The sounds themselves weren't even good. Sampled piano with "hall" reverb slapped on it for 90% of it, badly sampled strings for the other part -- ugh. Some music is good enough to survive such treatment, but this just made things even worse. Recording a piano into garage band at a friend's house would have helped some, but it still would have been bad music. There is absolutely nothing good or redeeming about this score in my opinion, save that it allowed the characters to get a few jabs in at it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a bespoken flame-retardant 3-piece suit I need to squeeze into.

[adds to favorites]

[gets popcorn]

Hurray! Finally something to discuss in the thread. I'll try and post some thoughts when I get a chance.

mr_n00b wrote:
tuffalobuffalo wrote:
Vrikk wrote:

Spoilers

I would spoiler tag that stuff because hardly anyone has played it yet. Anyways, to give you my thoughts on your questions:

Spoiler:

I think she knew that Johnny had forgotten their first meeting and other things. The rabbits represent the moon and their first meeting to her, so she had to have known he at least forgot something. Because she had fairly extreme Aspergers, it seemed to me that she just couldn't find a way to express that to him.

Spoiler:

It was explicitly mentioned late in the game that all those origami rabbits were River's way of telling/reminding Johnny that "I love you". I remember welling up pretty severely after that reveal.

On top of that, I'm pretty sure it was the only reason that she

Spoiler:

agreed to go watch that movie with Johnny even though he totally messed up that conversation. She remembered him and was wondering why he had changed since their meeting but couldn't express it.

In fact, the way I see it, is that Johnny stopped being Johnny after Joey died. He "became" Joey instead, liking the same books and the same foods and not even knowing why. Even his Mom called him Joey and while even she might not be aware of it given her mental condition , she saw more of Joey in Johnny than what was left of the Johnny pre-incident.

Johnny's original personality breaks through in certain areas, most of all in his relation with River. I believe the less skeevy idea that her was attracted to her as teenagers because he remembered her in some way. And not because he wanted to bang the weird chick like his best friend believed. Other examples include the piano song, the lighthouse and of course his final wish to go to the moon even though he can't understand how why or how that came about.

So my answer to Minarchist follows from the above:

Spoiler:

It's the same theory that Eva was betting on when she "moved" River; she was hoping that Johnny would still "remember" River from their first encounter and his subconscious after she removes the block and let Joey "live". It's the act in bringing the "real" Johnny back and seeing how his life would have gone differently. The trick here is that because it's playing out in Johnny's mind, we get a best case situation and everything ends up Stepford perfect because that's what Johnny's subconscious builds for him and naturally its everything he wanted even though he isn't really aware of the reason for most of it.

I understand that the ending can come across as artificially too sweet and ideal. But that's the purpose given of the Last Wish Dream Machine in the plot; to create that artificial ideal of a dream to meet that last request, no matter how strange, weird or self-centered it is.

I'm finally done with work for the day, so tonight I'll respond to your thoughts on the music, Minarchist. I don't even have almost enough energy to respond to all of them tonight.

Yes, this soundtrack was made on a synthesizer with extremely minimal production values. This doesn't bother me because the whole game and soundtrack was created by mostly just one guy (Kan Gao) in about a year. I know a few people helped with art assets and whatnot, but I don't know to exactly what extent. With limited resources, it would be hard to do much better. Having said that, you said you wouldn't enjoy it even if it had been given a proper recording. For context, I've played classical piano since I was a kid and am extremely sensitive to synthesizers and hate them. I'm the kind of guy who doesn't like playing on less than a Steinway and even some of those aren't great (Not that I'm a great pianist, but I know good feel and sound on a piano). So, of course the piano tone sounds awful and the synthesized strings are worse. I get past it because I like the score. It seemed to fit just fine in a 16-bit world, just a slight step up from 16-bit music.

So, you say "This soundtrack is something that screams from every fiber of its being that its composer wanted, more than anything else, to elicit extreme emotional response." I would argue that the whole point of music is to elicit an emotional response. A musician expresses their ideas through tones, harmonies, and rhythms in order to elicit an emotional response. If that response is extreme, I would say the music is more powerful. If music can affect my emotions positively, I'd say it is good to me. It affected you negatively, so it was bad for you.

Musical taste is a bit subjective, so it's difficult to argue whether something is good or not. I half liked the plot of Once and didn't really like the music. It wasn't bad music at all, I just dislike the tone of the guy's voice. I also place hardly any value in lyrics. I think this is just because I grew up with classical music. At any rate, if I hadn't enjoyed the music in this game, I wouldn't have enjoyed the game. It was a huge part of it for me. So, I'm not surprised at all that you disliked much of the game. When you don't like such a huge part of the package, it's impossible to have a positive overall experience.

How's the popcorn Clocky? Just wait till Wordsmythe plays the game. He's gonna hate the dialogue.

I've been working all day, so my brain is dead, and I'm sorry this response isn't put together too well. I'll try and get some more responses in when I have some more time. It's nice to finally have a real discussion about the game.

Falchion wrote:

So my answer to Minarchist follows from the above:

Spoiler:

I understand that the ending can come across as artificially too sweet and ideal. But that's the purpose given of the Last Wish Dream Machine in the plot; to create that artificial ideal of a dream to meet that last request, no matter how strange, weird or self-centered it is.

And that's okay, I guess, but the cognitive disconnect for me came across because the game told me "I are serious game. This is serious topic." In other words, it wasn't a game to just kill time or provide diversionary amusement. IIRC, the designer wrote it after his grandfather died, and he wanted to explore that subject, right? If so, then what's the point of this? In my opinion, it's either a bad point, or one that got so muddled I couldn't make it out against the plot mechanics.

tuffalobuffalo wrote:

Yes, this soundtrack was made on a synthesizer with extremely minimal production values...

Like I said, it wouldn't have changed my opinion of the music much one way or the other, hence why it was listed near the end of that paragraph. More of a nit than anything else.

So, you say "This soundtrack is something that screams from every fiber of its being that its composer wanted, more than anything else, to elicit extreme emotional response." I would argue that the whole point of music is to elicit an emotional response. A musician expresses their ideas through tones, harmonies, and rhythms in order to elicit an emotional response. If that response is extreme, I would say the music is more powerful. If music can affect my emotions positively, I'd say it is good to me. It affected you negatively, so it was bad for you.

Well...yes and no. You should certainly have an idea of what you're trying to accomplish when you set out to write something, but every time I've ever heard music written by someone who's said "I set out to write angry" or "I tried to encompass sad", it's been unequivocally bad. I'm not 100% sure why that is, but I have a couple theories. One is that I would say it's not specific enough, and therefore the music has no direction. The other is that they get so wrapped up in trying to elicit a response ("It's in D minor -- the saddest of all keys") that they forget to write aesthetically pleasing music. It may be a combination of both factors.

The other thing about it that really bothered me is it showed a lack of understanding of music as it pertains to supporting visual media. It all comes down to two words: TO PICTURE. And it didn't jibe for me at all. Visual aesthetic and musical aesthetic really need to match each other in order to work (and if they don't, you better have a damn good reason why). If I wanted you to score a meeting of hobbits at the Shire and said "make it happy", you wouldn't give me bombastic brass, would you? You could make screaming trumpets as happy as you wanted and it still wouldn't match up. The visuals and gameplay (what little there was) in To the Moon were extremely bare and simple. The music, on the other hand, was so contrived, so saturated, that is was extremely jarring.

Musical taste is a bit subjective, so it's difficult to argue whether something is good or not.

Ultimately this may be where we land on this score, but I think there's good discussion to be had prior to that. You would probably agree with me, for instance, that had "For River" started out with a D7 in the left hand and Eb7 in the right, it would not be very good music.

(I think that's actually an interesting sound, but its use is very specific.)

It was a huge part of it for me. So, I'm not surprised at all that you disliked much of the game. When you don't like such a huge part of the package, it's impossible to have a positive overall experience.

To be honest, the music was a minor part of my issue with the game. I wrote six paragraphs about the plot, and only one about the music. It certainly didn't help things, but I have enjoyed plenty of other games, even if I found their music off-putting. As I mentioned, I did actually enjoy probably the first 65-75% of the game...but then it went off the rails.

It's nice to finally have a real discussion about the game.

Happy to oblige.

Minarchist wrote:

The other thing about it that really bothered me is it showed a lack of understanding of music as it pertains to supporting visual media. It all comes down to two words: TO PICTURE. And it didn't jibe for me at all. Visual aesthetic and musical aesthetic really need to match each other in order to work (and if they don't, you better have a damn good reason why). If I wanted you to score a meeting of hobbits at the Shire and said "make it happy", you wouldn't give me bombastic brass, would you? You could make screaming trumpets as happy as you wanted and it still wouldn't match up. The visuals and gameplay (what little there was) in To the Moon were extremely bare and simple. The music, on the other hand, was so contrived, so saturated, that is was extremely jarring.

The music is very simple, which is why I thought it meshed with the 16-bit style graphics. Most all of the pieces use very simple chord progressions and minimalist melodies. The pieces also tend to be repetitive and loop which reminded me of playing a Super Nintendo game. I would describe most of it as charming. The one piece where I agree with you is the Laura Shigihara version of To the Moon (that might just be in the trailer). That feels really jarring, saturated, and over the top after playing the game. My line is somewhere just above that, however, where yours seems to be a bit futher up. So as not to hate on Laura Shigihara too much, I'll say that I really like her song, Everything's Alright.

The only problem with the simplicity for me is that I tend to get bored after a few weeks of listening. I've listened to the soundtrack quite a bit over the last week and will need to take a break from it for awhile. A soundtrack like Machinarium's in stark contrast shows that a game soundtrack can be beautiful, simple, complex, varied and stand alone much better. I still listen to Machinarium's soundtrack every week or so. I have yet to find a game soundtrack other than Machinarium's that will keep my interest for over a year. I'll probably be shelving To the Moon's soundtrack in a week or two only to take it out for a listen every once in awhile. It's been enjoyable, but I've just about had my fill.

I started discussing the music because you only wrote one paragraph about it and figured that would be the shortest discussion. Also, the music was a huge reason why I liked the game. I'm not really sure how I would feel about the game if, say, there hadn't been any music, for example. It certainly would have been interesting, but I might have been a bit more critical. I'll try responding to the other stuff later and do my best to keep the enjoyed-the-music bias out of the conversation.

Pyroman is running this for Fringe Busters this week. Watch the FB Twitter account for the details on how you can join in conversing and watching the play.

Yeah we're going to try to do the critical screening after the live podcast Saturday night. So if you want to discuss the game as we play it live check the twitter feed late saturday night and I'll post a google hangout link.

So, Minarchist, I have a little time to respond to your main problems with the plot.

Spoiler:

From what you said, I gather that the point when things break down for you is when you discover that Eva “moves” River. This ends up making John's story a Stepford perfect ending.

I'm pretty sure I agree with you on this. Before I got to the part where you discover that Eva “fixed” things instead of breaking them, the majority of the emotional impact of the game had already hit me, as in most of the important points to me had already occurred. The most important emotional point to me was River being removed from John's memories. That was the climax of the plot. After that point, the ending could go either way for me, and I would still have enjoyed it. I wouldn't even say the two extremes are “Stepford” and tragic. I would say the two extremes are Stepford and realistic. So, I would agree with you that I would have preferred a more realistic ending at that point. However, I didn't feel like the point where River pops up again was the last quarter of the game. It felt like the last 5% for me. So, yes, the ending was a little cheesy, but it was such a satisfying ride up to that point (95% of the game for me) that I just donned a stupid grin and enjoyed the Disney ending.

In defense of that last 5%, once Eva “fixes” John's life, the game became something else to me. The protagonists are now Eva and Neil, not John and River. The plot morphs into Eva and Neil's struggle to “fix” someone's life. Whether or not they actually fixed John's life is up to debate. I would agree with you that they f*cked it up. That just adds to the complexity of the characters of Eva and Neil and their relationship to each other. They screwed around with “real life,” and it worked out for them, but was it really the best path? I don't think so. They got paid at least.

Do you mind if I point your assessment to Kan Gao on the Freebird Games forum? They have a little review collection thread going there, and there haven't been many good critical reviews like yours (most of them have been RPSish). I think it would help him for the next installment. I still don't exactly agree with your musical taste (apart from the D7 Eb7 combo *shudder*), but all your points are valid.

Do you mind if I point your assessment to Kan Gao on the Freebird Games forum?

No need. :p I actually came across this thread from a Google alert earlier. Interesting read; thank you for playing and the feedback, folks!

@Min: Thanks for the detailed assessment! There're some intriguing points there, some of which I completely sympathized with at one point during its making, actually. I'll try to explain what changed my mind personally tomorrow or so (not that it'd change your view; just showing my side of the coin).

Cheers, all!
Kan

P.S. Ahhh, I don't know how to quote properly here.

You have to hit a certain number of posts before the quotes will work properly. It's just protection against the spammers. Don't worry about it.

I finished this last night and really enjoyed it. Not much "game" to it, but having played stuff by Tales of Tales and others I was fine with that. The story was beautifully and effectively told, and a was amazed at the amount of emotional connection I had with the characters, given the graphical limitations imposed in the game design. I loved the music and thought it was used well.

If I had one complaint, it was the arcade-y bit towards the end. Felt a little random and not very well thought out to me. Sometimes spike floors would appear next to each other, blocking my path but somehow I'd always make it through. And the "zombies" were annoying and not an actual threat. But that section was brief and my annoyance was minor.

I hadn't looked into how this game was doing for awhile since I've been very busy, but it looks like there is still quite a bit of buzz, and it's getting around. Gamespot even devoted a whole podcast to the game. It's still my favorite game of the year, and I hope everyone gets a chance to play it. I checked in the forum, and it looked like Reives is still trying to get it on Steam, but there's nothing to indicate that it will ever get up there for sure. I did notice that it went up on Green Man Gaming which is odd but pretty cool. I don't recommend buying from them unless you have extra credits. I would just buy it from freebirdgames.com.

So, I finished the build that got submitted to the IGF the other day and then purchased To The Moon afterwards. The order confirmation didn't contain any key due to some technical problem the payment system provider had. Sent an email to the address that was provided in the confirmation. And, lo and behold, 10 minutes later I received the key and an apology from the man himself. That's quite the customer service right there.

Wonderful game. I can easily see why it's not everyone's cup of tea, but it is one of my favourite games this year. The only odd thing about it would be the puzzles that come with every memory jump - it seemed as if Gao didn't fully trust what he had crafted and still felt To The Moon needed some more traditional 'game-ish' element. It really didn't.

A friend just enabled me on this one. Then I came to the only site I trust, GWJ, and found this thread. I read only a couple of things, and was set and sold on it. Just finished downloading. I'm waiting on everyone in the house to go to sleep, so I can play the 4-5hrs uninterrupted, as I believe is the way to be played.

Sad I come this late, but better late than never, right? Hope I haven't hyped this too much for me. I did the same thing with Shadow of the Colossus, and was blessed and the game ended up being better, so I cross my fingers hoping the same happens with this one!!

EDIT: just finished it, one sitting. It's now 7:22am. Will return with feedback. Loved it, and hated it. I'm siding a bit with Minarchist on this one. I'll post a fully thought-out critique later, but I'll just bow out saying I'm thankful people try to create these types of games. It's very refreshing.

kexx wrote:

EDIT: just finished it, one sitting. It's now 7:22am. Will return with feedback. Loved it, and hated it. I'm siding a bit with Minarchist on this one. I'll post a fully thought-out critique later, but I'll just bow out saying I'm thankful people try to create these types of games. It's very refreshing.

Good to hear the game made an impression! We would all love to hear your thoughts. There's still only about 10-15 people on here who have played it, surprisingly. There are definitely issues with the game, but I think they bother some people more than others. They didn't bother me so much because the "meat" of the game really clicked with me.

I check the freebirdgames.com forum every once in awhile to see if there is any progress getting it up on Steam. Reives posted this on the 24th of December:

Yep, about the price -- it's definitely going to drop. Most likely right as it gets on Steam (I'm actually tempted to drop it now, but I think Valve might appreciate having the Steam launch be the point where that happens). And as for getting on Steam, I'm still waiting on something concrete -- I'll let you know as soon as possible. Obviously won't be in time for Christmas or New Year's, though.

That's the latest on that, so maybe we'll see it on Steam in a bit. I think a lower price point would be a very good idea for Steam. It should be an impulse buy at this point. He also mentioned that existing owners would be able to get Steam codes from him if Valve allows him to do that.

OK, I'm ready. Here be an absurd wall of text and spoilers galore:

It's hard to find a point of where to start, because I truly loved the game in almost every aspect, even the quirky comedy, the horrendous gameplay that helped with pauses and variety from the heavy drama. But, the aspects that made me not love the game, which are few, really weigh in heavily.

Before I state my first problem with the game, I'll admit that there's a combination of my general lack of what is "common knowledge", "common knowledge in the US", and even though I've spoken and THOUGHT in english since kindergarden, English is still not my first language. Perhaps I didn't quite catch something that was being said, and it flew right over my head.

With that being said, I present the first problem I found:

Spoiler:

I have absolutely no freaking idea whatsoever what Asperger's Syndrome (AS) is. I'd like to think I'm not that dumb, or out of the loop, but in my opinion, AS is not as common as say, AIDS, or Cancer, or Parkinson's. Oh I know what it is now, because I googled it, but after I was done. And the only reason I googled the term, was because I read reviews and heard podcasts stating that this was the condition River had. The game fails to do this.

This is a huge problem because without the knowledge of what AS is, I sadly completely missed one of the biggest, if not the biggest emotional bomb in the game. Not only did I not know what it was, but the game doesn't even state or describe it. Obviously they can't in the beginning, but towards the end? No? What they do say throughout the story, is that she has some sort of "condition". You see she's acting...unusual, to what we've come accustomed to. As you progress, you find out that one of your friends, Isabelle, states she has "it" as well, but since she's an actress, she's been able to keep it from deteriorating her life. She was lucky she was diagnosed with it since childhood, so she had a chance to do something about it. River didn't. She was diagnosed with AS "too late".

I attributed her unusual behavior as simply being an introverted shut-out (earlier in her life), and then going senile (older in her life) or perhaps crazy and unstable due to losing a daughter (more on why I thought this later). Yes, I was aware the game told me she had a "condition", but I had no idea that this form of autism existed. Jesus, it's imperative to the plot. This disease prevents humans from "normal" social interactions, prevents her from expressing true feelings and emotions in any capacity. If AS is as widely known as Cancer, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, then this is entirely my fault. But if I'm right, and it's not as "common knowledge", then the creator made a HUGE mistake of not clearly presenting this key piece of information.

As I kept progressing through time, I find I'm in a doctors clinic, and he hands me a book written by some author on the condition. And that's it. I'm sorry, if I'm not aware of who this author is, am I supposed to Alt+Tab and google him right there and then? Talk about breaking immersion, my god. I was so invested in the characters and the story, that I wanted nothing to interrupt the experience. I trusted I would be keyed into more information later on that would allow me to piece together River's story. I keep progressing through time, and now they go to the movies, where she finds it normal to sit apart from him and watch a movie. I've seen and met people without any type of disease or condition who behave this way, so I was still pretty damn confused as to what they were talking about. What's this "condition" they're talking about?

Yeah, once I googled AS and look back in retrospect, then yes, her character is VERY well told, and damn, when you reach the carnival night, of course its a huge BOOM to find out what the rabbits meant. It was the only way she was capable of telling him she loved him, and it's very powerful. But if I have no freaking clue she has this disease, or that this form of autism existed, I'm out of the loop, and I miss one of the best scenes and themes of the story. I hated that. I want to blame me for not knowing of this condition, I wanted to blame me for being such an ignorant buffoon. So please, I'm seriously asking, is Asperger's Syndrome that common that I should've picked up on it with the clues given? Or am I right to blame the director for only giving me an author's name, and expected me to google the condition mid-game?

Problem #2, the last portion of the game. Once again, I attribute this to my reading comprehension. When they're together at the carnival stargazing, Johnny has to leave. They agree to meet there next year. If they "lose" each other, they'll meet on the moon. My interpretation of that was clearly wrong, because I thought as they grew older, that meaning changed from a literal meaning, to a more deep, emotional meaning. As in, she died two years ago, so he "lost" her. So he wants to go to the "moon" (heaven) to be reunited. This is how I interpreted what was going on. And since this was what I interpreted, I saw absolutely no logic in Eva's decision that the trigger for him to want to go the moon was, "erase" (move) her from his life. It was saying, love is so strong, that I'm betting that with that only encounter they had, it was powerful enough for them to go looking for each other (similar to what happens in What Dreams May Come). I thought her dying was also as strong, and he wanted to meet her "there". No need for the removal then.

So what happens? Eva decides, because Johnny wanted it this way, that this was to become a Brother's Love vs. Love of your Life. Damn, I thought that was bold. I wasn't that convinced, but goddamn did I respected it. What a truly devastating situation to be in; in order to fulfill a dying man's old wish, you must remove the love of his life, in order to be a more emotionally complete person, with his twin's love to make him strong. An equally powerful form of love to go through life. So I was seeing it this way: Since the moment Joey died, Johnny hasn't been happy. He hasn't been complete. He hasn't been himself. Yes, he fell in love, but continued living with pain and suffering and feeling incomplete due to his wife's illness. So is it fair to remove the suffering his wife's condition brought on him, and save his brother so he can live a happy life? Bold, hard, but that's what it boiled down to. Fine, I can live that. But then River shows up at NASA. River. Still with Asperger's Syndrome. Made it into NASA. Even if this was all made-believe in Johnny's head, that was just too much. Picture Perfect ending. Everything worked out. Where's the sacrifice? You sacrifice A, so you can enjoy B, and be happy with that decision. What decision was made here? Where's the sacrifice? Where's the growth? Eva sacrificed A for Johnny, only to end up with A AND B. Isn't that convenient. It felt like a cop-out, and thus, hated the ending.

I wouldn't consider this following problem as heavy as the two above, but I was very disappointed with the non-resolution on why the name ANYA was so important. It was obviously a gimmick to make us think that perhaps the reason she was acting weird, was that she went ape-sh*t because she lost a daughter. Then you find out that's the name of the lighthouse. Ok, lighthouses and the name Anya are both important to you. Then we're told why lighthouses are so important, but never on why Anya. I was expecting something, and the fact that nothing came, made evident that it was only a gimmick used as misdirection for the audience. I love misdirection when it's properly used and subtle. By the story's end, it was obvious, and I felt it didn't work.

Also, I think the game works more like a movie. It's a story you don't simply stop, and continue some other time. It's a story, IMO, that needs to be digested in one sitting. Hence, the game needs some serious editing. I think I clocked a little under 5hrs, and this shouldn't go beyond 3 - 3:30hrs tops, for the simple reason that the audience this game caters to, doesn't have 5 spare hrs to sink into. And I'd hate for them to miss it because once they stopped, they never returned. I wouldn't stop a movie an hr in, and continue watching the next day. I can think of a couple scenes that could use tightening, and others completely removed that aren't needed (like the Old Johnny Hologram realizing he's fake or Neil's painkiller addiction), that could help the story work even better. The comedy in the beginning is somewhat annoying and beneath the game's level, but it later on works better, and agreed, it's necessary to create those emotional pauses so we're not exhausted when we're done. This is La Vita é Bella, not Precious.

I've said too much already, so I'll wrap it up, but I will say this, the fact that those choices made me hate the ending so much, speaks volumes about the greatness of this game. I was invested from the get-go. Very well written, I did enjoy the music. It felt manipulative as hell, but I rode with it because I love that type of music. I'm glad the director took a chance and decided to tell this story in this medium. It was a bold move, and I think it's one of the greatest steps taken in the gaming industry where we can finally rest for a while and say to the world: Hey, we know what we're doing here. Give it time. It's not all explosions, whores and blow. Made me proud to be a gamer.

A little bit of a response:

Spoiler:

I didn't know what Asberger's Syndrome was either, so I googled it really quick at some point. I had always assumed she had some sort of autism or something. I can see why that would be a little annoying, but I don't think it's essential to know the exact illness that she has. You quickly find out that she has serious issues and putting a name to those issues didn't seem essential to me. However, knowing what it is exactly, after the fact, does make a few things make more sense. I don't know how he could have done it differently, because any method I can think of would have seemed very heavy handed.

As to Problem #2, there are quite a few interpretations that I've seen what the moon represents. From playing it a couple times and reading up on it, I've gathered the following: River and Johnny have an extremely complex relationship. Johnny is attracted to River initially and to a certain extent throughout because she's different and weird. He's very selfish throughout the whole game even though he thinks he's not. He never really understands River. Johnny doesn't remember their first meeting because he blocked that part of his life out after the death of his brother. River remembers however, and eventually starts making rabbits at the end obsessively because of AS to try and get Johnny to remember their first meeting which was romantic and not the one that Johnny remembers (where he is interested in her because she is different). That particular blue and yellow bunny sort of represents the moon and night sky in some ways. In that scene where Johnny and River watch the moon on the log, the moon is the belly part of a rabbit constellation. This moment was very important to River (she always kept that Platypus around for one). Johnny doesn't even remember it.

Anyways, I think you came to about the same conclusion on that stuff. I thought the moon was more about Johnny and Joey's relationship. IIRC Joey wanted to be an astronaut. I sort of thought that going to the moon was Johnny's subconscious wish to fulfill Joey's wish. Joey never got to grow up and go to the moon, so Johnny subconsciously felt he needed to do that for him.

Sorry, I didn't have much time to write a response. It might be a little all over the place.

Spoiler:

I agree, TuffaloBuffalo. The symptoms of her condition, and the fact she has a condition and not something environmental like a childhood trauma are both made very clear. Maybe the developers didn't want you to focus on the disease itself, to not distract us from the essence?

Short version: what's in a name? :-p

All I´m saying is that:

Spoiler:

I didn´t need to know the exact name of the condition, but I did need to know that she had a condition which prevents her from expressing her emotions. And I´m never hinted at that.

kexx wrote:

All I´m saying is that:

Spoiler:

I didn´t need to know the exact name of the condition, but I did need to know that she had a condition which prevents her from expressing her emotions. And I´m never hinted at that.

Gotcha. If they did reveal that at all, it was very subtle. I can't remember anything specific.

tuffalobuffalo wrote:
kexx wrote:

All I´m saying is that:

Spoiler:

I didn´t need to know the exact name of the condition, but I did need to know that she had a condition which prevents her from expressing her emotions. And I´m never hinted at that.

Gotcha. If they did reveal that at all, it was very subtle. I can't remember anything specific.

I thought they did? I might not recall correctly, but...

Spoiler:

In the bar when Isabelle talks about the condition she and River have and that she was diagnosed but not River, River's husband asks Isabelle if River really loves him. Isabelle responds with: "You'll just have to trust she does."

Spoiler:

Am I the only one who remembers the scene where they're actually visiting with a doctor? Did I just imagine that? Because that and what dejanzie points to are what confirmed the autism for me.

Hyetal wrote:
Spoiler:

Am I the only one who remembers the scene where they're actually visiting with a doctor? Did I just imagine that? Because that and what dejanzie points to are what confirmed the autism for me.

Nope, Kexx mentioned it in his first long post.

I'll summarize!

Spoiler:

1. Kexx states being disappointment that the game didn't spell out that River has AGS specifically. He does recognize knowing she had a condition, by mentioning the doctor's visit and Isabelle's comments.
2. My counterargument is that the specific name of the condition is not important, and might even distract from the main issue.
3. Kexx counters by stating that he didn't need to know the name of the condition, but at least its most important symptom: incapability of communicating feelings (here: unconditional love). He claims the game never told us.
4. I say "It SO did!" with a fantastic example
5. Everyone applauds dejanzie for his erudite comments and proclaims him King of Belgians (Queen on Saturdays)."

Damn my skimming abilities.

And I do agree with you.

Spoiler:

/applaud and proclaim (except you're always the Queen - them's the rules)