The perception of Russia has changed.
Always portrayed as the villain in western culture for as long as I’ve been alive, thanks to the recent World Cup, those looking in from the outside may well have had a change of heart. Should you be able to look at the culture and experience the history and stories of this wonderful land – looking beyond the movie stereotypes – you will possibly find something a little different. It’s a big place as well, with one such area, Perm, basing the brilliant developers behind the award winning, The Mooseman. But what’s is it all about
The Mooseman is a 2D adventure puzzler that is unlike any game that you’ve taken in before. You play an explorer/shamen who, with a trusty walking stick, journeys deep within a mysterious and magical land; one inspired by the moose and further stories of the Perm culture. The pace is slow, but it’s all about the beauty and experience the game has to offer. A narrator tells a tale of legend and mystery, and these are the cornerstones of the narrative as you progress. But it’s not just a normal walking sim, there is gameplay involved here, including boss fights and puzzles.
Your arsenal is simple, but thankfully you have a couple of neat tricks up your sleeve. The first is the ability to switch between the realms of the dead and the living. A little white animal skull replaces your head and you get to see a whole different perspective of the level you are traversing. A very simple way this is used is that if there is a gap in the real world that is too large to cross, a quick press of the button and switch to the dead world will allow you to summon a bridge of undead creatures, allowing you to cross the chasm. That sees The Mooseman boil down to a case of switching regularly between the two worlds to find answers to the puzzles, partake in the boss battles and look for some glorious secrets along the way. It’s a nice system that works very well, even though there are moments when the transition between worlds can be a bit slow, especially when in the more frantic sequences.
You also get to utilise a tiny piece of the sun, which can be used as a light and a protective barrier to fend off glowing insects that would otherwise kill you. The other big gameplay elements involve a an amount of dexterity, where you might have to negate a stealth section whilst hiding under barriers protecting you from a giant sea snake, and luring undead creatures so you can climb on them or use them as bait for other enemies. The puzzle element side of things comes in various forms, but they are all simple enough when you get your eye in. The boss battles are fairly easy to work your way though as well – particularly once you have learnt the patterns.
The actual gameplay experience is a mixture of some very great pieces of invention, and some quite frustrating moments where the mechanics just don’t seem to hold up. But all of this doesn’t matter really because at the end of the day it’s all about the journey, and this is a great one. Moments come across as strange, magical, ethereal and epic, and you’ll experience them all along the way, reminding of games like Inside or Limbo with a sense of the strange and the normal mixed perfectly.
One of the strongest elements on show here is in the design, artwork and graphical tone. A lot of it seems hand-drawn, with a unique style that is reminiscent of cartoons that you will remember as a child. The changes between the real and the dead are remarkable and a lot of research has gone into the collectible artifacts you can find along the way; there are some standout moments that really do make the hairs on your arm rise up. The soundtrack is also remarkable with influences of the actual folk music of the region mixed into some very beautiful audio.
In conclusion and the journey of The Mooseman is one you may well love, even though some of the gameplay aspects aren’t always as enjoyable as they should be. The artwork, soundtrack, and experience it delivers are outstanding, but one of the very best things is the price. If you want to take a chance with something a bit different, you can’t go wrong in taking a gamble with The Mooseman. So get your walking boots on and head into the realms of the dead, and the living world of Perm.