New Game Review

Review – The Mooseman (Xbox One)

Walks in the woods aren't always that calming.

Before we begin, I want to offer a disclaimer. Way Too Many Games aims to deliver objective reviews that focuses on the quality of the game first and foremost. I’m a big fan of mythology, putting The Mooseman right in that sweet spot for me. So despite my fascination with the Russian folklore uncovered in The Mooseman, we’ll be focusing this review solely on the game itself.

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Definitely not the Grandmother Willow that Disney taught you about.

Developed by a small Russian team of Perm city locals who call themselves, Morteshka, The Mooseman is a short atmospheric side-scroller. Set at an undetermined point in history, you play as a shaman who sets out on a mysterious journey to the lower world where the damned souls reside. Donning the ethereal head of a moose allows you to see into the spirit realm, observing the true nature of the world around you. The spirits, known as Chud, all become visible within the rocks, trees, and water. All of these can help you travel deeper into the underworld.

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For the first time, I’m beginning to understand why bears are important to Russia.

For players familiar with Inside or Limbo, the general mechanics of the game will immediately be familiar. You continue forward in your sidescrolling adventure, solving whatever puzzles are immediately within your view, without any need to backtrack. In this case, the only tools at your disposal to solve puzzles are your observation skills and your ability to view two different versions of the world. You move at one pace, with no ability to run or dodge enemy Chud.

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Shelob’s ancestor was a cave drawing.

It turns out that not all spirits are your friends. At numerous points throughout the game, you’ll be attacked by spirits and will have to either outrun them or quickly solve a puzzle to get away. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t always work as intended, leading to this frustrating death montage.

I was stuck attempting to cross this bridge for at least half an hour, growing increasingly frustrated for getting defeated by a simple game. In some cases, most noticeably at 1:09, there’s not discernible point where an enemy made contact with me before I perished. It was only after putting the game away for awhile that I discovered a hidden shield ability. Once I used it, it was smooth sailing from there as the shield worked even against the sudden death syndrome that I seemed to be experiencing.

The Mooseman‘s artwork is highly stylized, reminiscent of artifacts of the cultures that inspired the tale. Sketch lines and silhouettes suggest the whole game was once etched onto a wall with crude limestone tools and charcoal paints. But what really steals the show is the game’s audio. Music and sound effects were all handled by Mikhail Shvachko. The entire score is beautifully composed and ethereally haunting. Shvachko expertly uses moments of silence to highlight the mystery of the woods. Yet in contrast, has composed grand pieces that perfectly captured significant moments of reverence.

Lasting only two hours, The Mooseman can feel a bit too short for a paid game. But for a game with such simple mechanics, I was happy that it ended before it overstayed its welcome and grew repetitive. When it works properly, The Mooseman is well worth your time and money, especially at the $6.99 pricetag. And to close with a personal note: if you’re anything like me, the Russian folklore alone is worthwhile.

Graphics: 8.0

Stylized animation sets the tone for the journey.

Gameplay: 7.0

Bugs make certain areas frustrating to endure, but overall the game plays smoothly.

Sound: 9.0

Perfectly used silences and beautiful music really enhance the overall experience.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Artistic storytelling is a more accurate way to categorize of The Mooseman than “game”, but my fellow folklore nerds will love it.

Final Verdict: 7.5

The Mooseman is available now on Steam, Xbox One, Switch, and Android.

A copy of The Mooseman was provided by the publisher.

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Boston born turned typical Brooklyn hipster with too much beard and too little time, trading off sleep for the chance to test his patience with the most frustrating games. From Dark Souls to The Witness to ironman Xcom playthroughs; if it offers a challenge, it’s on his list. When he’s not hiding in the mountains, editing music tracks, or pretentiously talking about craft beer, you’ll find him replaying the Bioshock, Mass Effect, or Souls franchises.

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