Cross the Moon
Developer: Patrick Rainville
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Genre(s): Visual Novel
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on Xbox and PlayStation)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 18/06/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Visual novels are a niche genre that I have often struggled to truly enjoy. I have played (and reviewed) several over the years. They are not my favourite genre by any stretch of the imagination, yet something about Cross the Moon just spoke to me.
A mid-length visual novel, what immediately grabbed me was the unique visuals. More about those in a minute. Without any real idea what I was getting myself in for, I took the code and started a journey that, looking back, will stick with me for some time.
Was my journey to the moon a brilliant success, or was I left with nothing but problems and a desire to come home? This Rapid Review will answer those questions and more.
French New Wave Cinema Meets Vampires in Space
Cross the Moon is a game heavily influenced by French New Wave cinema. While I am not overly familiar with the genre, I do know the basics of how it started. A push against the creative control of larger studios. It is clear from the get-go that Cross the Moon sets out to break the mould of traditional visual novel games.
Gone are the more traditional branching pathways and multiple endings. Instead, there is but one way through the story and a singular ending to the tale. However, this doesn’t lessen the experience. If anything, I found myself more drawn into the world. It was surreal, unique, and tantalisingly bizarre.
A Heartwarming Hyperrealistic Story With Bizarre Tendencies
I have never played a game quite like Cross the Moon. The storyline is an unfathomable mash-up of genres. It takes hyperrealistic backgrounds and storylines involving race, sexuality, relationships, and the stresses of marital life and mixes them with a futuristic post-apocalyptic French society, including vampires and space parasites.
The multiple storylines intertwine with delicate precision to create one of the most engaging and emotional storylines I have come across in many a game. Another nod to the rebellious nature of Cross the Moon.
It doesn’t want to follow anybody’s rules. It is a visual novel that defies all genre elements, including the absolute removal of any form of gameplay. You go through the entire game pressing just a single button, and you can even automate that should you so wish. It further breaks the mould of its genre by ignoring the traditional art style and boldly cutting its own path, unashamed of its differences.
An Acquired Taste But One You Soon Grow Accustomed To
I won’t lie. When I first started playing this game, I struggled. The art style had me on edge. The background images are photos of (French) buildings and interiors washed in a range of jarringly bright block colours, laid over by black and white characters. It was, in many ways, ugly. However, I soon found myself drawn into the world, unable to resist. Much like the way the moon pulls the vampiric cast, I, too, was compelled to dive deeper.
There were three core storylines, each one interwoven through a relatively small cast. Each character impacted each storyline at some point, with everything coming to a head in the final chapter. The pacing was near perfect, building from a slow and methodical pace in the opening chapters until it reached a near feverous pace as it barreled towards its heartwarming conclusion.
A Fitting Soundtrack But One Irksome Flaw
The music to the game was also created by the developer and is a testament to his abilities. The result is a combination of chilled-out sounds and dark-natured synth sounds. An atmospheric soundtrack that is worth listening to for its own merit. Again, it is different, sometimes jarringly so, but it perfectly fits a game designed to be rebellious.
One issue I had with the game revolved around the sound. I had to restart the game every time I wanted to play. Otherwise, the sound would not work. If I left it on while my Switch was in rest mode, then I was playing a silent game until I reloaded it once more. This wasn’t a big issue in terms of annoyance, as it was an easy fix. However, it is also something that should be a relatively straightforward bug fix.
Highly Engaging But is it Really a Game?
I have alluded to this already in the review, but it bears repeating. Visual Novels are a somewhat niche genre already, with their lack of ‘real’ gameplay raising repeated questions of ‘what makes a game a game?’ Cross the Moon does nothing to help this. If anything, it may further divide the visual novel crowd, for it lacks gameplay or player involvement beyond pressing ‘A’ to move to the next page.
You would struggle to classify this as a game. But, it is… an experience. It is both novel, art and, yes, game.
Making video games is a creative pursuit. Creativity is art. Cross the Moon is a work of art. It is neither a painting of the Madonna and her child nor is it a Picasso. It is beautiful in its stark nature, captivating and sweet yet unrelentingly blunt with the points it makes.
I loved it, but I can also understand that this will not be a game for everybody.
A Masterpiece from a Solo Developer
Make no doubt about it, this game is a masterpiece. Whether you enjoy it or not from a personal standpoint, its quality is unmistakable. This is made even more special to know that this is the work of a single developer. Patrick Ranville. This is his first full title and only serves to make it more impressive.
I will certainly be keen to try out anything else he brings out later down the line.
It took me a little bit to get drawn into the game, but once I was in, I was hooked and didn’t want it to end. Cross the Moon is one of the most out-there stories I have played in years, but it is easily the most enjoyable visual novel game I have played.
I was sad that it ended, even if the story had an oddly Ken Loach-style ending. The stories were rounded off, but at the same time, there was no true resolution. Not to the overarching themes or questions. It works well because when dealing with authentic themes, there is no neat and tidy way to end it other than simply getting up and getting on with life.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can buy Cross the Moon from the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.