Review: The Mooseman (PS4)

Review: The Mooseman (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC, Mac

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: The Mooseman
Format: PSN ( GB)
Release Date: July 18, 2018
Publisher: Sometimes You
Developer: Morteshka
Original MSRP: $6.99 (US), £6.49 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 7
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
The Mooseman is an interesting dichotomy being both more and less than I expected it to be all at the same time. Its roots trace back to a Game Jam in 2015 where it started out as a runner with visuals based on the Perm Animal Style.

For those not wanting to click the link and get sucked down a Wikipedia rabbit hole, the Perm Animal Style refers to artwork spread across parts of north-eastern Europe and Asia, including Finland, Russia, and Siberia.

Review: The Mooseman (PS4) Review: The Mooseman (PS4)

What’s interesting is that there’s no real historical evidence, written or otherwise, about who created this far-reaching artwork. Because of this, the developers at Morteshka had to go back and find a way to put together a cohesive narrative for the game that included the art style.

The Komi peoples in Russia’s northeast are part of the Finno-Urgic peoples whose ancestors likely had a hand in the Permian works. This seemed like a good place to pull myths and legends from to create the final product.

As the titular Mooseman, you have the ability to see both the real world and the spirit world, literally at the press of a button. The game itself is a straightforward adventure moving left to right, screen to screen, through the narrative.

While there are a few hidden areas, the way forward is always to the right and there’s no way to get lost or explore much more beyond what you see on the screen. There are a few puzzles along the way but they’re not always clear, making the journey a bit frustrating at times.

Review: The Mooseman (PS4) Review: The Mooseman (PS4)

Fair or not, this game immediately drew comparisons in my mind to Never Alone < Kisima Innitchuna >, which is based on the Iñupiaq legend of Kunuuksaayuka. They’re both based on the myths and legends of a people and culture not widely known to the outside world. They’re even both left to right platformers with an art style built around the culture they’re representing.

While I feel that Never Alone is a more robust experience, I think that The Mooseman stumbles a bit and would feel a bit clunky even without any prior knowledge of the other game.

The biggest downfall is in the presentation. There’s a lot of reading in this game and so much information is thrown at you that it becomes hard to keep track of everything. Each artifact you find has a description which helps to put things in context but you have to stop what you’re doing and go into a different screen to pull up the information.

The narrative itself comes at you in waves with walls of text on the screen while the narrator speaks in Russian, judging by the sound of it. I think it would have worked better if the information was broken down a bit further and presented a bit more often during your journey through three layers of the Universe.

Review: The Mooseman (PS4) Review: The Mooseman (PS4)

Visuals:
At first glance, the art style is a bit simplistic, but it lends itself to the narrative and fits in nicely with the Permian works. The hidden world that comes into view with the tap of a button adds to the mystique and charm.

What starts off as a dull color palette become more vibrant as the game moves along and you reach the different layers. It actually helps to set up some pretty dramatic moments later in the game.

Audio:
The Mooseman blends sound effects, throat singing, Komi-Zyran, and Komi-Permian folk songs in a way that fully immerses you in the story.

The narrator appears to be speaking Russian and she does a fine job of not breaking the spell while the choral music, performed by the Student choir of Perm Krai College of Arts and Culture, lends an air of authenticity to the experience.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Review: The Mooseman (PS4) Review: The Mooseman (PS4)

Conclusion:
It’s hard for me to distill my experience with The Mooseman down to a score. While I was frustrated at times with the gameplay and the presentation, it did get me to dig into the Permian style and learn more about the Komi and Finno-Urgic people who I’d previously known nothing about.

It’s a short experience clocking in at around two to three hours, but that’s not a bad thing when you consider how much information is packed into the game along with its low price.

It certainly falls short of other games in this anthropological experience genre, but it did make me curious about the artwork and the cultures around which it was based, so clearly the developers have succeeded in that respect.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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