The Moon Silver – A Short Story in Video Game Format
Over the years Video Games have been more and more often used as a way of telling stories in novel ways. Moon Silver is another one of such stories. Rather than focusing on quick-paced gameplay or flashy graphics it tries to tell us a story, but there is a certain catch. Moon Silver does not tell you the whole story, instead it gives you numerous pieces and you have to gather them up to then realise what exactly has happened, and perhaps most importantly learn who the character is. I have decided to approach this review as one would approach a book or a piece of art, I will focus on the story itself, how it was presented and only interfere or interject where something has clearly broken my sense of immersion.
The Moon Silver – What is it about?
Moon Silver is one of David Szymanski’s many small (in terms of size and length) Indie projects. I personally did not have the opportunity to see any of his previous work before, nor have I heard of David Szymanski himself, but when I am offered a chance to see something hopefuly refreshing I am all for it.
Let us then talk about Moon Silver. Just off the bat, there are no advanced controls, an inventory screen, etc. As the creatore himself stated, it’s an exploration game, and most of the time you will spend walking around, looking for clues and prompts. Your left mouse button is what you will use to reveal pieces of dialogue, descriptions and thoughts, scattered all around the island. Some of them more obvious than others. A book, a flashight hanging off a ceiling, a barrel in the corner, these are but a few things that may be interacted with to bring up pieces of the story.
Since the game does not set you on rails, so to speak, you learn of the story in a somewhat irregular fashion. As you visit and uncover different locations you begin to create some manner of chronology, you identify the different characters, their relationships with one another and to an extent who they once were, before the cataclysm that hit the world.
Was that the correct approach? In literature you rarely tend to break up chronology, but in video games or film it is perfectly possible to create irregularities and abstracts (think Memento). In the case of Moon Silver I was interested in uncovering all the bits and pieces and then putting them together, regardless of the order I got them in. To some this approach might be confusing, while others might not even realise where to find the dialogue prompts to learn the whole story. Having to walk up to every object in sight and then checking whether it has any information might be a bit annoying, though I did not feel that way.
There was a problem however. The narrative boxes at times appeared when you were close to an object, and slowly faded away when you moved away from them. In a few cases (or at least one building) there were so many narrative “prompts” next to each other that they almost covered each other up. During some moments I wished that the box lingered as I moved, as I found the need to stop, to read the narration, a bit flow breaking (if you moved too quickly the box would begin fading away almost instantly, you could come back to it of course).
A nice addition might had been voice overs, or a narrator who would state, out loud, what was being written below. Of course, then the boxes would have to appear only once, each time, and you would be unable to return to them (this would call for some in-game system of collecting notes perhaps).
Graphically the game was simple, but the textures and the level design was fine, in my book. It wasn’t Skyrim, obviously, but it allowed for an ease of exploration, and at some moments I would the game to be colorful, in its own way. For an exploration game it has everything that it needs. Maybe a bit nicer graphics would had been welcome, but for an Indie game made by one person? It’s certainly better than what I could make.
I do not wish to give away too much of the story, since that is something you should uncover yourself, but the basic idea is, you wake up in a cottage, in some manner of deserted village and you explore it, armed only with a flashlight. Why is the village deserted? What happened to its inhabitants? Those are the questions you will find answers to.
The question now is, is it worth your money? Considering its price, and relative length it would be like buying a short story to read on the bus, or when you just want to get intrigued in the story alone, rather than the game mechanics, killing of countless or fancy graphics. While I am one of those people who tend to enjoy games with faster pacing The Moon Silver was certainly very enjoyable.
If you are interested in more of David Shymanki’s work, or if you want to purchase The Moon Silver, check out his site, where he lists his different Video Game productions. You may also find The Moon Silver on Desura. Markiplier also played one of his previous works, Fingerbones, which was surprisingly dark, but it follows the same style you will find in The Moon Silver.