Sometimes the premise a creative work is built on, whether it be a film, book, record, game or other, is so good that it fuels the imagination far beyond the work itself. Regardless of its execution, a concept can be strong enough to stand on its own, ready to be discussed and dissected away from its artistic embodiment.
Its Winter in Australia, and I’m sipping Irish coffee while Brian Eno’s 1978 classic Music for Airports plays in my headphones; it seems like a good time to try and describe the foundation that Freebird Games’ To The Moon is built on.
It’s a beautiful idea that asks one of those big water-cooler questions:
Johnny lies on his deathbed, at the tail end of a life unfulfilled; a lifetime’s sum of memories add up to regrets and a question of what could’ve been.
But in the fictional world of To The Moon, the technology exists to be able to supplant those memories of a failed life with those of wishes granted. It’s not that Johnny gets the opportunity to actually relive and try again, it’s only the memories that become interchanged, so as to leave the world with a sense of peace, instead of regret.
It’s sounds like heavy lifting, but Freebird Games seems like its not without a sense of humour, based on the promotional image at the top of this page with its quote from Flight of the Conchords. These sorts of high-concept journeys need some levity to sustain their drama, and its encouraging to see that Freebird can poke fun at itself.
Since its release in 2011, To The Moon has become one of those indie classics that continues rereleasing on platform after platform, with Apple TV being one of the more recent. To The Moon’s success has resulted in a sequel – Finding Paradise – which released in late 2017.
With Johnny’s wish described openly in To The Moon’s synopsis, and of course the Moon-sized clue in the title, it seems the journey into Johnny’s memories is not to find out what, but instead to ask why. In order to achieve a successful result, doctors within the game’s fiction need to find out why this dying man is ready to give up the actual memory of a life lived, in order to remember instead having been to the moon.
And that brings us to that big question:
Would you erase what’s been to remember a lie if the payoff meant peace?