The Mooseman presents an interesting aesthetic and setting. While simplistic in presentation and gameplay, the concept of playing a ‘Mooseman’ – a mythological character from perm animal style artefacts – as he makes a journey through layers of the world is certainly intriguing.

The game is a 2D adventure that sees you side scrolling through the harsh and abstract environments of the land, solving light puzzles and collecting myths that explore the context of your character and their culture. As a Mooseman you have a Moose skull that you can wear, and doing so changes your perspective of the environment – revealing creatures/spirits that you couldn’t otherwise see, as well as hidden features in your surroundings.

This mechanic is worked into some of the puzzles, for example revealing bridges to cross pits and erasing obstacles by removing your sight of them (if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist, right?). None of it gets complicated, but it does serve some purpose other than making your environment look trippy.

The history and myths surrounding this culture are a big part of the presentation and drive of the game. Each level is segmented by a Russian voiceover that narrates where you are in the journey, and your linear path is sign posted with statues that offer little stories. It’s nice to collect and read these, though if you’re expecting a detailed or coherent narrative then you might be a little disappointed. The game is abstract in this way, and its minimalistic style leaves little room for narrative exposition.

Mostly the game involves simply walking slowly to the right and switching to and from your moose skull, however there are a few times where the game mixes things up. There’s a section that gives you a bow to shoot predators, and another where you control a bird in flight. The game is very short (barely over an hour) so there was never going to be much gameplay variation anyway, but the few parts that deviate are welcome and interesting.

The levels also contain secrets and collectables. You may think that the levels don’t have many places to hide secrets, but some of them have different paths to discover or parts of the environment that aren’t as they seem. For example, you may be able to pass behind an obstacle that, due to the 2D nature of the game, looks impassable. And of course your moose skull can reveal ways to cross or climb to unreachable areas. There are also secrets to solve that play into the game’s aesthetic, with little puzzles that reveal artefacts and so on – for example, one section of the game has you walk past a wall with hand prints on it, and while you don’t need to do anything with them to move on with the game, if you enter the correct sequence with the hand prints (like entering a password in an old game – left, right, right, and so on) then it will reveal a secret. They can be very difficult to find, but the game world is more interesting as a result in my opinion.

But the game world itself is really what props The Mooseman up. Because while exploring for secrets has its benefits and there are a few puzzles and gameplay diversions to enjoy, this is really a simple game and I feel many may find it tedious on the gameplay front despite its short run time. But the hand drawn art style and the minimalistic, yet striking use of colour holds the attention and does well to present this intriguing context – the ancient tribe aspect combining with the mythological subject matter. The music is also a success, complementing the journey to create a mystical atmosphere.

There were a couple of technical hiccups, with some slowdown and one instance of getting stuck on the options menu, but nothing too severe, and very rare in occurrence. So aside from this, The Mooseman is a solid short adventure. As I’ve said, it is limited and short, so if you’re looking for a more involved adventure then this probably won’t be for you. However the subject matter and presentation are very intriguing indeed and also fairly unique in the gaming scene. The price is very fair and so it’s difficult to not recommend if you are at least curious.



Author

John Little
John Little

I started gaming with the release of the PS1 - Crash Bandicoot and Ridge Racer Revolution being the first 'real' games I ever set eyes on - and have been enthralled with the medium ever since. I particularly love strategy and horror games, the sort offered by titles such as Total War and Silent Hill, though I also have a soft spot for a good RPG. I studied Journalism at university in the hopes of progressing into writing about games, but my 'real job' is as a postman. You'll most likely find me covering indie games as I'm always on the look out for interesting little titles, and generally I stick to the PC and PS4 platforms. I'm not interested in MMOs or really any kind of online game, and I have an unusual and frankly worryingly expensive obsession with collecting gaming guide books, but aside from that I like to think I'm a well rounded average gamer. Find me on twitter @JohnLittle29