Here’s a change in format, play-along questions first, since they’re pretty short, and will also conveniently segue into my impressions and wild speculations:
1. Protesters. Perhaps not too surprising to find they exist in this world. Many of us were not entirely comfortable with the concept of what Sigmund Corp does. What did you think about getting a look behind the curtain as it were, and seeing some of the responses of the employees?
No real change of opinion. Most people believe they’re doing some good in their own way, otherwise they wouldn’t continue with what they’re doing. That’s why you have protesters who believe strongly enough in what they stand for to come out and protest; and that’s why you have people working for a company who believe what they’re doing is right to continue doing what they’re doing.
As mentioned previously, if they’re sticking to the letter of the law and creating only fake memories for people who’ve explicitly consented and are dying shortly anyway, that’s of very little issue. The memories exist only for those terminally ill people, and it gets wiped thereafter by said peoples’ passing.
We’re beginning to see some more questionable use of the technology in the minisodes though, which is always one of the problems with new technology, the potential for misuse outside of acceptable boundaries.
Using the tech for people who haven’t explicitly consented… I think that’s definitely in the ‘bad’ category. Yes, even if the person is incapable of consenting and the fake memories would give them a better fake life, I think that’s not morally (and legally) right to do so. Informed consent and all that, one person’s rights stopping where another begins and so on.
The use of the tech for people who have more or less consented, but -aren’t- dying shortly thereafter… is, I think, getting steadily explored as the overall narrative across all the games progresses.
Something that hasn’t really been addressed explicitly either is the state of memories, real or fake, and the potential for said memories to exist after someone’s passing.
In the actual game, Eva makes a brief reference to reconstructing a new fake memory “River” out of Johnny’s memories and -whatever info- was available in the public domain – emphasis mine. In one of the minisodes, she casually mentions that it’s not as if they save peoples’ memories on a disk, hence it’s ok for visitors to come by. So… does that mean that they save peoples’ memories somewhere else -other- than a disk, say, on a private network, or in the public domain, or not at all?
I suppose the main dubiousness of it all would be, is there potential for any of these fake memories to affect someone else? Because then we’d be passing out of the realm of the personal and into the boundaries of someone else, and some legal thought and consideration needs to be in place for what is or what isn’t permissible.
2. For how short these two (aptly named) Minisodes were — we were given a LOT to wonder about, from Ghost Eva on the road, to Neil’s mum or dad on the phone, to what on earth he was doing with the memory unit in his office to… whatever it was that happened post-credits. So, yeah… My extended version of the ‘WTF?’ question is: What do you think is happening? Speculate wildly!
Okay. So here we go into my general impressions about the two minisodes.
Minisode 1 is a short and fairly straightforward meta-commentary.
The surface story is that we get a sneak peek into Sigmund Corp and its employees as they celebrate their annual Christmas party. We meet Neil and Eva while they’re busy pranking each other and chat up the other characters in the company.
Neil shares with Eva a game he made based on the client they met in To The Moon.
There are also a few serious moments where the employees reflect on what they do for dying people.
All this while outside their door, protesters haul their placards and throw tomatoes at lab-coated employees who dare show their face outside.
And where’s the meta?
YES. YES WE GET IT. OKAY?
It’s a clever little sidelong swipe at To The Moon and its critics. The critics are the protesters who don’t understand.
Sigmund Corp or the game authors are going to keep making their little games anyway, because it’s all about those fleeting moments of shared happiness for those who appreciate what they’re doing to make it all worth it.
In the meantime, here’s To The Moon as an actual GAME as imagined in Neil’s hands. We have an unskippable arcade sequence where we have health bars, levels, player interaction where they must navigate through paths and escape enemy icons (represented by Zombie Evas and evil pickled olives) while they bring significant memory artifacts from River to Johnny to get to the next level.
And yes, the graphics are EVEN MORE PIXELATED (read: antique) and the gameplay’s a pushover, but…
OKAY. WE GET IT ALREADY.
But yea, it’s funny and enjoyable and blessedly -short-. Pacing is important.
Minisode 2, meanwhile, is now the creepypasta meets missed connections edition of To The Moon.
aka How mysteriously spooky and relationship-shippy can we make this mini-episode and blow peoples’ minds and allow them to wildly speculate?
Answer: Pretty well.
We’re back at Sigmund Corp for another round of the Christmas Party, except it’s right as the party has ended and people are dispersing and going home.
Neil and Eva have some quick and awkward conversations where they skate around their feelings for each other, while all around them, all of their colleagues are pairing up for Christmas.
The two most senior doctors (literally grey-haired and married) are comedically frisky with each other, to the hilarious ambient tune of crickets as Eva and Neil stare wordlessly at them.
Dr Robert Lin and Dr Roxanne Winters appear to be pretty much dating and/or engaged at this point – Dr Winters is waiting for Dr Lin to get ready and presumably they are either going out or going home, but definitely together.
Neil says he’ll be staying back in the office to work. Eva says she’ll be going to meet her sister Traci for Christmas dinner, and takes her briefcase, goes down to the lobby, and exits, stage left in a car alone.
Meanwhile, we see Neil hard at work on his secret project. He’s swiped one of those fake memory machines and is… trying to use it for something… for apparently the thirtieth time.
It may or may not be related to someone he keeps calling, but not speaking to. The person down the line meanwhile just keeps going, “Hello? Who’s there?” and later wonders if it’s their “Son?” “Is that you, Neil?”
Except the moment he attempts to turn the thing on, the power goes out. And he tromps down to the basement to turn the power back on, where he surmises that someone manually turned the power off… except…
He hears noises upstairs, grabs a broom, and bashes Eva in the face with the bristles…
Apparently, she came back, having invited her sister and her kids, and even Lily and her kids, to set up a Christmas dinner for Neil.
Even Dr Winters shows up (though I can’t remember if Dr Lin did), but she claims that Eva needed some kind of pickup. It’s not quite specified if -Eva- herself needed a lift back to the office (though Neil thinks so and momentarily wonders about it) or if she was referring to picking up Lily and her kids.
Neil has a -moment- where he runs out of the office and stands in a very blatantly telegraphed two paths diverge moment.
Down one path, he leaves to go and work on his secret project even further, possibly to do with the parent? calling him “son” down the line.
On the other path, he goes back into the office to have Christmas dinner with Eva and all the people she called back on his behalf.
The minisode ends there, without any real indication of which path he took.
In the credits, we see fuzzy sepia memories of a Neil who did go back for a happy Christmas dinner, having ridiculous fun with the kids and so on, while an ambient sound recorder is mysteriously zoomed in on “Record” mode.
In a scene after the credits, we see Eva exiting the office lift with her sister and kids, where they exchange ambiguous words about the Christmas dinner, along the lines of, it wasn’t so bad, was it?
There is a split second where the screen flashes to something a little more sinister…
… before we’re back into office lift territory and they leave.
Minisode 2 is rife for speculations galore. There are definitely overlapping memories/timelines going on here.
Exactly what is still not supremely clear, but there are some possibilities.
Neil is definitely using and mis-using the memory creation technology for something. He’s been trying it out on himself. Repeatedly, for almost the thirtieth time. It may or may not be the source of his headaches and pain, but it could very well be.
The… parent? he keeps calling may be involved. He may be trying to adapt the tech for a new purpose that involves them. One easy guess is dementia or Alzeimers. He may be trying to make something that gives said patients who are still living some manner of memories back.
A wilder guess would be some kind of time travel mechanism or way to create a version of themselves to phase back to the past. (Or he aims for the former and stumbles on the latter.)
The attempt may be slowly killing him. (Or perhaps even -less- slowly so. Perhaps the thirtieth attempt does kill him, or incapacitate him in some way… hence our unseen person’s attempts to fracture that timeline before it happens.)
That unseen person, by the way, is apparently Neil. -Or- someone with Neil’s password and access particulars. You can check this with Eva before she goes out to talk to Neil for the final time, hence Neil’s earlier boggling over impossibilities and glitches in the matrix.
My best guess is that the Christmas dinner with Neil is a bunch of fake memories. It did not actually happen. Neil dashes off, stage right, to work on his secret project further. Eva has to go back, empty-handed, to have dinner with her sister, and that’s why they exit later, not quite commiserating.
Later that night, Eva takes out -her- own stolen tech and layers those fake memories for herself on top of it, where Neil does come back to spend time with them.
What happens in the future is not supremely clear as yet.
Most likely, -something- happens to one of the pair. Perhaps something happens to Neil and Eva has to try and save him from himself.
A doubled Eva running around behind the scenes could easily account for why Eva sees herself in the car scene, and somehow manages to require a lift back to the office from Roxanne. She could easily have shut off the power. Perhaps she’s doing it with a ‘ghost’ Neil supporting her, hence her knowledge of Neil’s password and access privileges.
The alternative is Neil running around to save Eva, but this seems less likely, given the foreshadowing of extra Evas.
It could perhaps be that Neil collapses first, causing Eva to enter into memory rift unreality to save him, but that in turn causes her to collapse, and then it’s Neil’s turn to save her. Who knows.
If we want to get -really- wild with speculations, we might end up in future episodes with a Neil vs Eva memory duel!
Both of them sitting in their chairs with a helmet on their head, rifling through each others’ shared memories, trying to
- a) restore the actual timeline,
- b) differentiate fake from real memories,
- c) somehow implant enough fake memories to grow close enough and express their love for each other, instead of remaining unrequited,
- d) all of the above,
- e) prevent all of the above.
Oh, and this is Eva’s diary from Minisode 2. We definitely have either a ghost Eva or Neil on our hands here.
Much Later Footnote: After reading Kim from Later Levels’ take on things, it also occurs to me that the spooky image of Eva that we see may not necessarily be “later that night” but simply, “later later.”
As in, so much later that Neil has actually passed away and Eva either let him go at that point or wasn’t in time to do anything for him. Knowing her, she would push on with the rest of her life, feeling increasingly lonely and sad… possibly until we hit this crux point of despair in an apartment by herself.
At which point, she decides to use the device on -herself-, creating this long elaborate intensely meta game-spanning con game on herself where the dastardly duo goes around altering timelines and doing their best to save Neil.
Except that if she succeeds in this endeavor, she is actually committing suicide in the “most real” darkest of timelines.
(Or the equivalent of suicide via mental wipe of whatever ‘real’ memories exist.)
It kinda sounds like something the author would do.
Depending on how far we are into fantasy and overlapping timelines, rather than bitter mundanity, perhaps the copy of Neil that exists in this Eva’s fake memories has enough of his facilities and personality to realize what she’s doing… and is game enough to attempt to hijack and disrupt her attempts as well.
Who knows. Once we start layering all this stuff on top of each other, we could go -anywhere- at this point!
One thing’s for sure, I actually prefer the more out-there minisodes. They’re short enough to not drag in pacing.
The storyline is more fantastical and less mundane, allowing for more humorous segues to break up the moments of intentional meaning and metaphor.
It’s like the equivalent of watching normal cinematic jump cuts and being allowed to fill in the blanks like reading comics, rather than one un-ending long take that lingers lovingly on whatever the director finds fascinating while no one else quite understands the significance and is now bored.
Steam sale is on now, so I’ll likely be able to pick up the sequel Finding Paradise once July’s Humble Choice comes out, and ensured there will be no doubled game copies regret.
As for the third game Impostor Factory, that will have to wait until it goes on sale. While this sequence has been entertaining, I don’t think I’m invested to the point of needing to buy the next game at full price quite yet.