• This is a scene from the video game "Moons of Madness." (CNS photo by Funcom)

Author H.P. Lovecraft's fictional universe meets terrors of space in new videogame

Adele Chapline Smith / CNS    |    06.16.2020
Category: Videogames


NEW YORK (CNS) -- The fictional universe of author H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) meets the terrors of space in "Moons of Madness" (Funcom). The result is a cosmic horror game that thick-skinned grown-up fans of the Rhode Island-bred connoisseur of chills are sure to enjoy.

"Moons of Madness" is a walking simulator and puzzle title set on Mars and featuring the supernatural thrills of Lovecraft's particular mythos. The opening sequence will let first-time players know what they're in for and let them determine if they're ready to handle the challenging ride ahead.

Protagonist Shane is an engineer for a space exploration company that has established a base on the Red Planet. The opening sequence sees him in a nightmare version of this facility, surrounded by tentacled creatures, strange chanting and a shadowy woman who seems to have it out for him.

Much of the storytelling is done through computer logs scattered across the base and exterior landscape. Clocking in at five hours of gameplay, the plot could be better, but is still undeniably intriguing thanks to its varied threads.

Besides the creeping space threat, there's family drama and a wicked corporation in the offing. There are crazy scientists to contend with as well. Shane must discover if his co-workers are what they seem to be if he wants to find out about the lurking monster.

The gameplay is very linear and, at times, plodding. However, the immersive story and creepy ambiance more than compensate for this. Every level is clearly well-designed, moreover, and the mechanics are simple.

The most important of these is the scanner on Shane's wrist which he uses to check the environment and to hack into machines to look for information and conduct repairs. When he does so, the player must solve puzzles which sometimes involve basic math problems but nothing overly complex.

As in Lovecraft's fiction, the line between the alien and the demonic is kept intentionally blurry. As an atheist, Lovecraft wrote to induce terror in an equally unbelieving audience. Maintaining only muddied distinctions between extraterrestrial and hellish origins is just another technique to accomplish this.

Unlike many Lovecraft-inspired games, however, there are no obvious occult elements. Instead, it's the frightening ingredients and coarse language that make this title unsuitable for casual gamers of any age.

Playable on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

The game contains much horror violence with blood and occasional coarse language. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, material whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. Not rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

- - -

Smith reviews video games for Catholic News Service.

- - -

CAPSULE REVIEW

"Moons of Madness" (Funcom)

The fictional universe of author H.P. Lovecraft meets the terrors of space in this cosmic horror game, a walking simulator and puzzle title set on Mars. The protagonist is an engineer for a space exploration company that has established a base on the Red Planet. The gameplay is very linear and, at times, plodding. Yet the immersive story and creepy ambiance more than compensate for this. Every level is clearly well-designed, and the mechanics are simple. As in Lovecraft's fiction, the line between the alien and the demonic is kept intentionally blurry, though there are no obvious occult elements. Instead, it's the frightening ingredients and coarse language that make this unsuitable for casual gamers of any age. Playable on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Much horror violence with blood, occasional coarse language. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, material whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. Not rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

- - -

CLASSIFICATION

"Moons of Madness" (Funcom) -- Catholic News Service classification, L -- limited adult audience, material whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. Not rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service, Inc. All rights reserved. Linking is encouraged, but republishing or redistributing, including by framing or similar means, without the publisher's prior written permission is prohibited.

Sign up for our FREE weekly e-newsletters!

Choose from news (Monday), leisure (Thursday) or worship (Saturday) — or get all three!