The Mooseman Review — A Stunning Exploration of an Ancient Myth
The Mooseman is a striking exploration of an ancient myth that uses superb music and visuals to create a wonderfully atmospheric game.
Xbox One X
Review copy provided by the publisher
As one of the seven sons of Yen, I draw lots with my brothers in the dark and gloomy forest. As the chosen one on this day, a long journey through the three layers of the universe awaits me. The goal of my journey is to retrieve Shondi, a piece of the sun, deep below the ground in the Lower World where ancient spirits dwell.
Thus began my journey as the titular main character of The Mooseman, a being that is half-god and half-human, who can see all that is hidden to the mortal eye. This stunning, spiritual journey comes from indie developer Morteshka from Perm City in Russia. This 2D adventure puzzle game was inspired by ancient myths of the Finno-Ugric tribes in the Perm Animal Style. It is a solar myth that depicts the journey of the Mooseman and is based on the culture of Komi-Permians, Komi-Zyrians, Mansi and Saamic people. The game was translated to the Komi-Permian language, and some parts are voiced by a native speaker.
The journey of the Moosemen is about each of the seven sons of Yen, an ancient god who created the world out of an egg-shell. Yen eventually took a human wife, and she gave him seven sons. When Yen was teaching his sons how to hunt, they found a six-legged moose that carried Shondi, or the sun, on its back. Once they shot the moose down with an arrow, Shondi fell to the Lower World, creating night. Every day, one of the seven sons, or the Moosemen, must travel to the Lower World to collect the piece of the sun and carry it through the Middle World to the Upper World of the ancient gods to put it in its proper place to provide warmth and light.
Gameplay is straightforward. As the Mooseman, I could shift between viewing the world as a mortal and peeking behind the curtain at the spirits who dwell there as well. When seeing beyond what mortals can comprehend, the differences are literally stark white compared to the gloom of the forest and the Lower World in the early part of the game. It is impossible to cross some gaps and get past certain obstacles when viewing the world as a human; the same goes for when utilizing the power to see beyond. As I made my journey, passing by different idols caused them to light up and provide the next piece of the game’s myth.
The Lower World is full of different puzzles including different platforms that need to be stepped on in specific orders and hiding beneath pieces of driftwood to hide from an enormous pike fish called Vakul. Other creatures, spirits, and gods also stand in the way. Eventually, I was able to pick up Shondi. After doing so and completing the first part of my task, I was able to use it to keep different harmful spirits at bay by igniting it to create a protective shield.
From the Lower World, I entered the Middle World, the place of men, and subsequently, the Upper World, the site of the ancient gods. More puzzles needed to be completed there like outsmarting a witch. There is also a race flying against a furious storm to prove worthiness to enter the Upper World as well, which is probably the most action-filled part of the game. The trek through the Lower World takes up most of the game.
The Mooseman is breathtakingly beautiful. The game’s art is based upon the Perm Animal Style, a unique metal/plastic-form animal style that existed until the 12th Century. It honestly felt like the game was all drawn from chalk which added to its otherworldliness. The game’s simplicity and atmosphere are perfect for the myth, and certain parts that focus on the night sky full of constellations are works of art. Different rainbow-colored artifacts of the Perm Animal Style are hidden throughout the game. The game’s color scheme is mostly full of greys, blues, greens, and white, so the contrast between that and the colorful artifacts is quite striking. When looking at each artifact in my collection, a description of each one is provided as well as research information.
Complimenting the game’s visuals is its equally gorgeous soundtrack. Based on the folk music of the Komi people and composed by Mikhail Shvachko, some songs were performed and recorded for the game by the Perm Regional College of Arts and Culture. It provides the perfect atmosphere for the game from the dismal depths of the Lower World to hunting the moose in a snow-filled forest. The forest was also my favorite part of the game’s soundtrack, and it gave me goosebumps the entire time
For those looking for a high action game, this is not it. A lot of the game is spent walking through the different worlds. At one point, a bear came after me, and I couldn’t run away, but instead had to use my Mooseman powers by turning them on and off to get past trees in the forest and obstacles from spirits. The game is also short; I finished it in less than two hours. As far as replayability goes, I can see myself playing again now that I have read all of the myths discovered throughout the game to catch all of the details put into it. I actually found the game quite calming overall and will probably play the game again to relax.
Overall, The Mooseman is a wonderfully crafted adventure puzzle game that has stunning music and visuals. It’s apparent that Morteshka put a lot of research, time, and care into the game. While it may seem too short to some, I feel that it is the perfect length to explore these myths of old. I found The Mooseman to be a work of art and an ingenious way to explore a tale that was woven in perfectly with the game’s different puzzles.