RocketPocket Games wants to scare your space pants off in their upcoming cosmic horror game, Moons of Madness. Between the creeping infection pulsating on the walls, the deepening dark that seems to pull you further into the abyss, and protagonist Shane Newehart’s disorientation, Moons of Madness kicked me into the game with full force and didn’t bother wishing me luck.
That’s horror for you.
I was expecting an Event Horizon kind of game, where the atmosphere would be more psychological than supernatural, but as a representative from RocketPocket told me: “It’s more tentacles and Lovecraft scares than atmospheric horror.”
Moons of Madness opens as a dream, where Newehart is disoriented, alone, and afraid. He’d been stationed at a research facility on Mars, where we later learn that he is under strict NDA to not tell his family or friends about where he is or what he’s doing. Newehart is thrust into this twisted version of the life he’s been living and as he tries to piece together what has happened, he’s haunted by the spectre of a woman roaming the station’s corridors.
But it was all a dream… wasn’t it?
Newehart wakes up with a heck of a migraine, which his buddy attributes to being a hangover from a party the night before, but there’s something not quite right. The power is off. The doors are locked. And as Newehart and his friend on the other side of the comm work together to fix these issues, Newehart discovers that the greenhouse has flooded. He needs to figure out how to fix the environment controls and use the water reclaimer to drain the excess water.
Horror games are purposefully obtuse about in-game directives — it adds to the tension. Moons of Madness provides an on-arm tool to cut that tension ever so slightly and provide an additional interactive element for manipulating the technology around the station. It’s especially helpful in the greenhouse, where Newehart needs to find three objects to reset the reclaimer, which are scattered throughout the murky, “infected” area.
During the course of fixing the water reclaimer, Newehart discovers that the botanist, who had been known as a mad scientist around the facility, was dabbling (and succeeding) in gene splicing. As he moves through her lab and into the water reclaimer, he discovers shattered glass and pools of blood — the “mad” doctor probably didn’t make it and whatever got to her was clearly prowling around the area.
Rhizophora, the botanist called it. “My child,” she said in a rather breathless project update on her computer.
And just as we turn on the water reclaimer (which required some light puzzle solving), we meet what might be the Rhizophora in all of its tentacled, Lovecraftian glory… and the demo abruptly ends.
Moons of Madness doesn’t appear to be leaning too heavily on the “madness” that Lovecraftian horror has a tendency to elicit. Tentacles aside, the telltale signs of Lovecraftian horror — psychological horror, elder gods, and cultists — aren’t present. (Yet.) Newehart’s migraines could be a trigger for something more sinister, but we won’t know until Moons of Madness slithers its way onto PC this Halloween.