Question: when can you make the distinction between a puzzle side-scroller and a walking simulator? Answer: not when it’s The Mooseman. Originally released on PC back in February of 2017, it is now finding its way onto home consoles. The Mooseman is a 2D indie title that combines puzzles, walking, bosses, walking, flying mechanics, walking and… well, more walking. Think of it like Limbo but without any of the entertaining platforming elements, interesting level design or straight up fun for that matter.
The story in The Mooseman is simple: you are a moose. Wait, no that isn’t right. You are a man. No, that isn’t quite right either. You are a Mooseman and you have the ability to transform the world with a single click of a button revealing hidden obstacles, animals and pathways and then reverting the world back with the same button click. This game is based on ‘finno-ugric culture of bygone pagan times’. You understand right? To put it bluntly: you walk (and sometimes fly) to the right a lot on a journey through the lower, middle and upper worlds all while finding artefacts and solving super simple puzzles. The upside to this is that the game is filled with information through collectables and story progression that you can optionally read (alternately if you don’t read any of it, then you will breeze through this game in less than an hours time).
As you go on your walk as the Mooseman, you will encounter simple puzzles that must be solved by using that world reverting button mentioned previously. Items in one dimension are required for the other dimension and vice versa. For example, you may need to get a caterpillar-like spirit to provide you with the passage across a cliff. There are many various spirits to utilize and interact with such as animals and people. The best part of the game was a level where you got to use a bow and arrow to shoot down wolves and eventually a giant moose. Yes, you read that correctly. You are the Mooseman shooting down a giant moose. Just accept it and move on.
The visuals in the title are good but not great as the animations look far too simple at times and cause the game to feel overly boring. If there is one highlight, it’s the sound design and that is where the game truly shines. It’s just such a shame that it is hidden behind such a below-average experience. The background music itself feels really atmospheric and makes the journey a lot easier to tolerate.
The last negative element I can speak of in this game is the options that are presented. Even when you are given a choice, you have no idea what you will actually be getting. I found myself seeing and hearing Russian when I had clearly selected English at least a half a dozen times. There is also no specific volume setting for the music, just a single sound effect setting that left the background music blaring on a specific level.
As this is not a long game to complete you will find yourself walking to the right as fast as you can to finish it. The emptiness felt upon the conclusion of the experience isn’t a great one but it is one that the game deserves. Unfortunately, The Mooseman gets almost nothing right in terms of an engaging experience. Aside from the collectables for lore purposes there really isn’t anything to come back to after you have completed this for the first time either. Those who are interested in cultural games that are quick and easy to complete, this could be for them, but I cannot recommend this game to anyone else.