Worth falling for.
Moonrise Fall opens with a dramatic and harrowing car crash. As an introduction it’s cryptic, but it’s clear that the victims were a kid and his parents. The boy survived, the parents didn’t. As haunting music plays, the boy appears to transcend – perhaps to heaven, perhaps into unconsciousness – eventually finding himself in a mysterious, dreamlike forest with nothing but a journal, lantern, camera, and one hell of a creepy mask.
Like many things in Made From Strings’ brain-teasing puzzler, it’s all open to interpretation. The opener is straightforward, but it hits in the right places. Its emotional resonance – aided by a fantastically expressive score – sticks with you one throughout this odd spiritual journey. It raises a lot of questions, too. Who is the boy? Where or what is this forest? Did he survive the crash? There’s an engaging central mystery here, but one you’ll have to work to uncover.
By work, of course, I mean photographing the forest’s weird and wonderful inhabitants. As you explore, your journal populates with encounters with odd creatures and unusual entities. Following along with these well-written riddles helps you snap familiar yet deeply unearthly beings. They’re rewarding to find and their unnatural shapes and varied designs make them exciting to reveal.
During your exploration, you’ll find a musical instrument that lets you manipulate the weather, allowing you to bring down wind or rain. No, it’s not an ocarina. I’m not sure why you’d think that. It’s a kalimba. The right weather conditions are essential for capturing the residents of the forest. If you’re having trouble getting a particular creature to appear, try changing the weather.
The time of day is also an essential component. You can switch between dawn, midday, evening, night, and late night on the fly. Each provides a wholly different aesthetic to the forest, which switches from tranquil and picturesque to creepy and downright haunted. Journal entries typically feature a hint as to what time of day the creature will be visible, as well as any relevant weather conditions, so read carefully!
Moonrise Fall isn’t just a hobbyist photography simulator, however. Every picture you snap is in aid of revealing the greater mystery, each photo bringing you closer to opening up large and mysterious puzzle dungeons. These dungeons are fairly straightforward, rewarding essential ominous orbs upon completion, but they provide decidedly less challenge than the rest of the game. They also go on a bit long sometimes. They each stand out from one another, though, thanks to their striking aesthetics and unique mechanics.
There are also lamps to light and pink crystals to collect that serve as collectibles. Everything you collect, as well as every creature you capture on film, rewards you with energy, a resource used to unlock new areas. In its entirety, the forest is fun to explore, loaded with surprises and supported by fantastically-sharp pixel art. Moonrise Fall looks great, with an understated yet expressive visual style that does a lot with a little.
There’s also the wonderful audio design offering a stellar backdrop to your uncertain journey. The sounds of the forest are vibrant and lively, lending a huge amount of life and personality to the quirky woods. Meanwhile, the brilliant soundtrack scores the adventure with emotive and dramatic arrangements of strings and pianos, highlighting the impact of emotional moments and raising the tension of unsettling sections.
A couple of quality-of-life tweaks would be appreciated, however, like faster movement speed and increased sensitivity for the camera, which moves around the screen at a crawl. Also, though I played Moonrise Fall with a controller, the fact that the camera can’t be controlled with a mouse seems like a real missed opportunity. These issues are hardly major, but addressing them would help to make the experience snappier and more responsive.
Ultimately, Moonrise Fall is a quaint journey of exploration and supernatural oddities. The central mystery is simple but effective, providing enough incentive to keep going while underscoring the whole affair with a persistent layer of tragedy and an evocative spirituality. Following along with the journal and locating the inhabitants of the forest is rewarding and engaging, and you might even find more to uncover if you dig a little deeper.
[Reviewed on PC]
Dan is a UK-based lover of games, music, and movies. He can usually be found buried in RPGs, shooters, roguelikes, and sometimes World of Warcraft, but really he’ll play anything he can get his hands on.