Developed By: Sometimes You
Published By: Sometimes You
Category: Adventure, Education, Puzzle
Release Date: 7.18.18
The Mooseman for the Nintendo Switch is an adventure game that explores Finno-Ugric mythology. The Finno-Ugric peoples are an ancient group of cultures that evolved into several modern-day cultures, notably the Hungarians, Finns, and Estonians. A common story in the mythology of the ancient Finno-Ugric cultures is the idea that the world was hatched from an egg by the god Yen. In The Mooseman, you take on the role of one of Yen’s seven sons.
Yen took a human wife who bore him seven sons, the titular Moosemen. One day, Yen took his sons to teach them to hunt. They spied a six-legged moose that carried the sun, Shondi, from the Lower World to the Upper world every day. Yen hunted the moose and eventually brought it down, whereupon Shondi fell into the ocean under the Lower World. Thus was night created, where there had only been day before. Yen tasked his sons with gathering light from Shondi and placing it in the Upper World each day. And so, each day, the seven draw lots to see who will make the journey from the Lower World to the Upper World. Today is your day…
Journey of the Mooseman
The Mooseman adopts a very minimalist style in all aspects of its approach to design. The gameplay can best be described as “go right.” About 80% of the game is simply tilting the thumbstick to the right and going that way. As you walk around you pass totems which unlock entries containing tales from the Finno-Ugric mythology. You’ll learn stories about Yen, Shondi, Osh the Bear, and many others on your journey. There are also images hidden throughout the world that can be collected to unlock a short entry which explains a little bit about the iconography that attends the mythology. I’m personally always fascinated by mythology of any culture, so I had a blast taking a journey through these tales.
There are some puzzles that must be solved along the way as well, using abilities unlocked on the journey. The ability to see the spirit world is unlocked first, and is used to move objects and find hidden pathways. Eventually, you acquire a spark from Shondi, which when activated protects you from harmful spirits and can be used to get past powerful guardians who respect Shondi’s light. None of the pathfinding puzzles are especially difficult, as the focus of The Mooseman is on story and explaining the mythology. And, again, I found the mythology fascinating, so it wasn’t something I minded. However, gamers looking for a challenge may find themselves disappointed. It took me less than two hours to complete the main narrative, thought, so it’s not as if the game requires a huge time commitment.
Woods, Rivers, and Mountains
While the gameplay is overly simplified, the minimalist nature of the graphics actually helps to create a nuanced and complex visual aesthetic. The game favors solid colors and shapes for its characters and backgrounds, which renders the world in a surprisingly high level of detail considering each stage focuses on three or four shades of one color. The camera often zooms in on the player’s character, and the developers get a great sense of motion out of five frames of animation. Activating the spirit world reveals spirit aspects which are always rendered in white. Harmful spirits also have red eyes, so watch out for them. When the camera zooms out to reveal huge, sweeping vistas, the views are consistently breathtaking. The light and weather effects add shading and some depth to the visuals, completing a visual masterpiece. Aside from the mythology, the graphics are the big draw of The Mooseman.
Sounds of Solitude
A haunting, lonely melody introduces you to the world of The Mooseman. The music is inspired by Komi folk music – the Komi being a Finno-Ugric civilization centered in what is now Russia. There are even a few songs that feature Komi chanting over them, and finishing the story unlocks translations of the lyrics. The music is pretty uniformly thoughtful and sparse, which emphasizes the loneliness of the Mooseman’s journey. The music is quietly captivating, completing an exquisite audio-visual experience.
The Mooseman has no touch or motion controls, and as such it plays just as well whether your Switch is docked or undocked. Despite the sparse nature of the graphics, though, I thought it looked amazing on my TV. I really think the larger screen captured the subtlety of the graphics better than the Switch’s screen, so the game is recommended for docked play.
TL;DR: An absolutely gorgeous exploration of a culture’s myths and stories.