The Mooseman is an atmospheric 2D adventure title self published and developed by a small team based in Perm, Russia known as Morteshka.
Title: The Mooseman
Platform: PlayStation 4
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by Publisher
Available on Steam, PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store, Nintendo Switch eShop
Set in the lands of the ancient Chud’ tribes of Perm, you control the titular mythological character, as he journeys through the three layers of the universe: the lower world, middle world, and upper world, in order to restore the divine flame and bring balance to the universe once again.
The main mechanic used to solve puzzles is a mask which can be switched on and off with the press of a button. This mask allows the Mooseman to see that which cannot be seen by mortal eyes, such as spirits and certain parts of each puzzle, and allows him to phase through certain surfaces as well. Once these spirits can be seen, they can be used to solve puzzles by moving in the correct direction or having them follow you. It’s self explanatory for the most part, except for the few occurrences where these moving spirits had slightly altered behavior.
Idols are lighted as you pass them and are used as save points as well as places where you can learn about recently seen objects or the creatures you have just encountered. I found myself stopping often to learn about some of the creatures and objects I had just passed by, as well as the bigger creatures I had to escape from. It felt more interesting knowing the exact reasons why they would chase the mooseman, rather than it just being because they were big scary enemies meant to chase the player, and helped give more depth to the world.
The divine flame the Mooseman obtains a little while into the game can also be used to his advantage, as it will protect from enemies which will otherwise defeat him as soon as they touch him. The flame extinguishes once used, but can be quickly reignited. This only protects the Mooseman from smaller enemies though, and bigger enemies must be dealt with in more clever ways, using the surrounding environment to hide and/or escape from them.
One thing I found is that most puzzles were on the easy side, perhaps too much so, while the most difficult puzzles just required proper timing. There aren’t really enough mechanics introduced to make puzzles with more depth, but it would have been interesting to see more creative ways to use the mechanics which were already there, rather than getting just a small taste of it.
The art style featured in The Mooseman is a gorgeous mixture of white, black, and grey, conveying a similar appearance to ancient art work or cave drawings . Although the bright whites and dark blacks go well together with the grey background, sometimes it can be difficult to see everything on the screen without either putting the mask on or taking it off. Wearing the mask will also change the color of some objects from black to white, so this can either help or hinder the player depending on what section they’re in
The music was done by Mikhail Shvachko and performed by the student choir of Perm Krai College of Arts and Culture , and based on folk komi music. The soundtrack adds a proper and distinct feel to the atmosphere, and it may not be the most notable soundtrack, but it serves its purpose and its obvious that plenty of care was put into its creation. The soundtrack is also available to listen to on Soundcloud. The few sections of vocal audio featured in the game were also actually spoken by a native speaker of the komi-permian language.
Overall, The Mooseman is a great choice for those who would prefer a short experience (around two hours) and would like to learn more about a lesser known mythology. It may not have as much to offer as similar games, but you can easily tell that plenty of care went in to its creation and properly representing an ancient culture. The music and art style alone make it an intriguing experience for any player interested in the subject matter.
The Mooseman is available for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
A demo is available for PC, Mac, and Linux.