A valid criticism of the hundreds upon hundreds of independent games which have made their way to the Switch eShop in the two years since launch. The Mooseman is quite noticeably different in its approach, with its world based upon the stories told in archaic Finno-Ugric myths.
This is a slow-paced game, with a plodding protagonist cumbersomely making his way from left to right with a jittery animation which has him look as if he has some difficulty walking. That slow speed serves a purpose, though – it’s so that the player has the time to take in and appreciate the surroundings, which is of utmost importance when it comes to the game’s puzzle solving. Unlike most games, The Mooseman is nothing like in-your-face when it comes to distributing the solutions, and you’ll need to have a pretty keen eye if you’re going to make it through the game having found every collectible. For example, one section only reveals its collectible if you follow a series of images looking like ancient cave paintings with several images of a figure facing either left or right. Having taken note of that order, you then have to move your character a little left and a little right in the correct order in a trick that feels like entering a cheat code in the games of days gone by.
The main USP as far as game mechanics go is the layering of levels, with one world placed over another with the same environment. That’s not quite as confusing as it sounds: it takes a button press to move from the ‘real’ world into the realm of the dead, and that’s a dynamic which the large part of the game’s challenge is based upon. Stationary objects in one realm will be illuminated as living creatures and either move towards or away from you in the other, so if you find yourself looking at ledges which you just can’t reach, it’s usually advisable to flip into the other realm and establish whether there’s anything around you can move to use as a route upwards.
The Mooseman isn’t just about puzzle solving, as there’s a limited amount of combat too. You’ll really only be responsible for the defensive action, with enemies trying to hit you from afar. But for the most part you’ll want to duck out of sight, which is another activity which is performed by shifting through the dimensions. Both humanoid and massive beast characters pose their own threats at points, and sometimes the best course of action is to try and walk past them as swiftly as possible.
The Mooseman is probably more of an educational experience than it is a full-blown game. Collecting artifacts places them in a list which reads like a reference book to all of the mythologies the game represents, and the success of the game comes in its a-ha moments rather than through sheer excitement. As a result, this is the gaming equivalent of a school trip to the museum; an experience which is supposed to encourage the imagination, to put your mind at one with the myths, but the result of the slow pacing and the lack of excitement it’s a title which only a small minority are going to be able to get on board with. It errs just the wrong side of style over substance, though certainly has a memorable style.
The Mooseman £6.29
The Mooseman has its own distinct style but leaves something to be desired on the gameplay and fun front. It’s a handy educational resource, but not as great as a game.