Preview: Moons of Madness is all about chilling, lonely space horror
A good horror game succeeds in making you feel like you're completely alone... with the exception of some sort of big supernatural or undead evil potentially lurking around every corner. Moons of Madness from Rock Pocket Games and published by Funcom is bent on doing just that. And judging from what I played of the game at E3, the foundations for a solid first-person supernatural horror game are definitely in place.
It's Lonely in Space
In Moons of Madness, you play as a low-level clearance technician who's posted at a base on Mars. While the job is simple — make sure all the base's systems are running smoothly — you soon begin to encounter strange occurrences inside the ship. Lights begin to flicker and ultimately shut down. Greenhouse areas become flooded. Organic-looking growths start forming on the ship walls. It's all very weird stuff, so you do what any protagonist in a horror game, movie, or book would do: You try to figure out what's happening.
While playing Moons of Madness, I was reminded a lot of SOMA. That game nailed the chilling atmosphere and unsettling loneliness perfectly, and it saved its jump scares for when you least expected them. The little I played of Moons of Madness indicates that this title will follow suit, focusing largely on building tension and surprising you with its scares.
One good scare happened early in the demo. I explored the empty corridors of the base, the lights of which were completely shut down. All I had as a light source was a weak flashlight, which meant I couldn't really see anything other than what was directly in front of me. There were times when I'd be walking down a long hall, only to turn and see the silhouette of a creepy, long-haired woman with a slender figure and creepy posture — think Diana in the movie Lights Out.
Rather than rushing me, though, the creature ran off. Naturally I followed her, but I found nothing when I turned another corner. I expected a jump scare right then and there, but surprisingly, there was nothing, thus more tension built. I continued to explore until I found the woman sitting in a chair, with her back to me. I approached her slowly, and turned the chair, only to witness a grotesque face on the figure.
At that moment, my character woke up from what was apparently a nightmare. I don't think that was a nightmare, though, but rather an omen of things to come. What followed was a series of simple puzzles that required me to find key items, explore more claustrophobic areas, and get basic instructions from the home base — all in the dark.
From Supernatural to Cosmic
While Moons of Madness definitely has a supernatural horror movie vibe to it, Rock Pocket Games was also influenced by more cosmic horror like that of H. P. Lovecraft's work. This became instantly apparent when, at the end of the demo, I witnessed a massive, grotesque monstrosity climbing aboard the base and making its way toward me.
The design of the creature was nightmarish to say the least, and though it was much different than the Diana look-alike I'd previously encountered, it definitely fit right in the game, especially considering that this story takes place in space. Rather than focusing on the stereotypical depiction of what most folks think aliens look alike, the game introduced a monster that was more bestial, almost feral.
My only concern is that the game may be a tad too slow-paced, as the majority of what I did during my 20 minutes with Moons of Madness was walk around and solve puzzles. That said, speaking with the dev team at E3, I was informed that following the appearance of the Lovecraftian abomination, things would begin to get really intense. If that's the case, bring it on!
Moons of Madness is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC just in time for Halloween 2019.
Also from Funcom...
Conan Chop Chop is like The Binding of Isaac meets Castle Crashers
While Moons of Madness was gloomy, dark, and creepy, there was another title at the Funcom E3 meeting room that was the complete opposite: Conan Chop Chop from Mighty Kingdom was bright, colorful, and whimsical. It was also a lot of fun, blending gameplay that felt like a cross between The Binding of Isaac and Castle Crashers.
Conan Chop Chop features four dungeons spread across a large overworld map. The action is fast-paced, hack-and-slash, dungeon crawling fare. The procedurally generated dungeons are filled with enemies and traps, and up to four friends can jump right in either locally or online. Killing enemies yields coins that can be used to purchase upgraded weapons, as well as consumable health items, and even a bow and arrows for some long-range offense, something I utilized almost exclusively while taking on the boss at the end of a dungeon.
What I played of the game wasn't complicated, but it was a lot of fun and had a charming style to it. If you're looking for your next couch co-op party game, Conan Chop Chop may just be what you're looking for when the game launches on September 3 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.