“We open our doors to you on this eternal night. Under the moon’s gaze, you may enter. [This] is an atmospheric exploration game. The player is tasked with completing a ritual prescribed by an interspecies pact formed eons ago. Complete puzzles and delve deeper into a bewildering monument.”
Full disclosure right ahead:
Raindrinker used a free key of “There Was the Moon”, provided by Ben Lapid, to play the game and write an article about it.
“There Was the Moon” is such a piece. It is a game version of the most auteur home movies, or the weirdest post-surrealist music – the kind of things they show in whimsical festivals in Europe that are so delightfuly underground and outside of the mainstream that you can do nothing else but feel the presence of an author and a deep artistic intent that lingers, but you are never quite sure what the hell it wants to be. This game is to most games what a poem is to a story.
Are games art? I sure hope so, because “There Was the Moon” is almost nothing but art – art, ambience, melancholy and a lot of mood, all pointing in the same direction to make something that feels complete, like a statue. There are a few puzzles in it, but honestly, I almost feel like they are a concession to not let anyone say this is not a game. They offer some pacing, but the game itself happens when you are just walking and letting the visuals as well as audio bouncing inside your head.
There is a ton of care put in both the audiovisual representation. The visuals are just brutalist and delightful, with some very elegant lighting and shadow effects that feel extremely soft and physical. The audio is something incredible and it constantly hits that strange note that makes your skin crawl and your spine shiver, but not in an uncomfortable way… It feels more like ASMR.
It is not a horror game, but it is deeply unsettling. It has some very minor ‘jump scares’, but no random monsters, nothing that feels gratuitous and cheap. “There Was the Moon” does not really want to scare you at all. Instead it aims to confuse you, draw you in, make you uneasy. For those who have played it, it feels like one of the games Coda from “The Beginner’s Guide” would make: Just a place with a mood, a game that does not really welcome you or wants to be played that much. It also might be a coincidence, but both titles feature lampposts.
“There Was the Moon” might have had a consistent message, some lore that I just missed or did not understand, but neither did I as a player really care about that nor did the game itself. Why should it? This one-man auteur piece deals in vibes and moods. Within a timespan of just one to two hours, it attempts to speak to the player’s soul, and what can I say? The feelings it delivered to me will surely be sitting for a while. [PLAY]