Developer: Bunnyhug Ltd
Publisher: Coatsink Software Ltd
Genre(s): RPG, Adventure
Platform: Xbox Series X|S (Also available on PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 26/10/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Will This Hook You In?
Living in an idyllic seaside town situated along the Eastern Canadian coastline, where your job is to go out on your boat, catch fish and sell them with your trusty dog Waffles by your side… sounds like the perfect retirement plan! Now what if someone told you mysterious creatures lurked out at sea, frightening the island to the point where no one will dare ride its waves? What’s worse, you rely on the fish out there to avoid bankruptcy! Well, this is the adventure that awaits you in Moonglow Bay. But, is this title a catch or was I baited? Find out in this Rapid Review.
The Motion of the Ocean
You begin the game by choosing your character, your name and your pronouns, before picking your partner and their pronouns too. For me, this is the first time ever that I’ve experienced choosing pronouns in a game, being able to present yourself however you please. It is also a very rare occurrence to play as an elderly character, so immediately Moonglow Bay was refreshing. Though, once fairly late on in the game a character called my partner by the wrong pronouns, which I’m assuming is just a glitch.
With the rumours of dangerous sea creatures, the waves of the bay have been bare. But, though the move to Moonglow Bay was your partner’s dream, the return of your daughter kicks you into shape to pursue their goal of having their very own fishing business. It’s not as easy as that though, since you actually have very little knowledge of fishing at all! With the help of the friendly neighbourhood you grow your business while also discovering the truth behind what lurks out at sea.
Though there is an overarching plot of expanding the business, the game is split into chapters with a clear focus. I liked that you were able to dedicate your attention to each section before moving on to the next. You’re scouting out giant sea creatures one minute, and clearing the ocean of rubbish the next. I enjoyed the environmental elements too as I am a very strong believer in teaching about our planet, such as through games like Beyond Blue. What you’re left with is a great slice-of-life which is also fuelled with emotions, since there is also a focus on relationships and human nature.
Don’t Be Shellfish
The core gameplay in Moonglow Bay focuses on a sort of cycle; go fishing on your boat or on the beach first of all. Then, sell the fish or cook it into a fishy dish in the kitchen to sell at the front of your house for shells, the game’s currency. The main story does have you refurbishing areas of the downtrodden town and fixing up your boat. However, to do this requires that you make money, which brings back around the fishing cycle.
It is quite repetitive, but you have a surprisingly large map to explore on foot and by sea, with dozens of species for you to catch and recipes to learn. It’s also broken up by cut scenes and the story progression, which feature missions that aren’t just your average fishing trip. I would say at times it did feel like a grind though; having to come up with 5000 shells to refurbish the library made my eyes bulge. Without these monetary obstacles in the way though, the game could be rushed through and over a lot sooner. I do need to clarify that I played solo, and couch co-op is available. This might help you make money faster!
The side missions are a nice way to earn money too. You either bring neighbours dishes that they want, or talk to them to provide you with information about a species to catch. There’s also a museum to fill with your findings, offering another incentive to keep playing.
Catch On Quick
Control wise, there’s quite a lot to learn but you grow accustomed once you’ve had a couple of tries and you are walked through each stage. Fishing is quite different from Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing. Wait for a fish to nibble and pull your bait under the water, tap RT then pull the fish towards you with the left joystick. These critters will put up a fight though, so you must pull against their direction if they dart to one side. Holding down LT also gives you a boost but this can’t be used too often or you’ll wear yourself out and there will be no fish for you!
There are often button diagrams showing what to press anyway, like in the cooking mini games for example. They’re simple yet satisfying, going through the likes of chopping, frying and baking. Try not to mess up though, as this will affect the dish’s quality! Again, this was quite repetitive considering you have to cook a lot to gain money. At times I did find it tiresome, preferring to play the game in hour or so bursts.
Throughout the game you also learn about the different rod and bait types, and which fish to use them on. This element adds more challenge to the fishing, as it’s not simply casting a rod and pressing a button. If you’re after a certain fish, make sure to consult your journal to see where it resides, what time of day it’s best found and what rod or bait to use. Moonglow Bay really earns the title of a fishing RPG!
Reel Beautiful Visuals
The voxel art work was incredibly impressive, with tiny details hidden in every corner. The movement of the characters and creatures was smooth, and the sea in particular looked amazing. I feel like there’s such a step up from past voxel games, being able to show off in all its glory on my Series S. One of my favourite parts about the design was the way the UI changed to reflect the time of day and weather, going from bright blue during the day to orange at sunset.
Complementing this were the gorgeous illustrations both in the journal and for the characters. They looked straight out of a children’s story book and added so much charm. While the voxel art is detailed, the cubes can obscure a person’s face and hair slightly. So, the two art styles were the perfect pairing! The soundtrack then accentuates the charm and adventure, feeling very much like a Pixar film. The music swelled when out on the ocean and struck hard when in a dangerous situation. It was varied enough too so that it never stopped being a joy to listen to!
Having the character illustration alongside the dialogue, with the expressions changing, brought them to life. Every single character was unique, the dialogue also included colloquialisms to add that extra personality. It meant there was no need for spoken dialogue either. There was also great witty humour in not only the speech, but the NPC names too, so keep an eye out for those! There was such diversity in the characters too, from race, nationality and age. Other games would do well to learn from Moonglow Bay.
A Whale of a Time?
My time with Moonglow Bay has been enjoyable and I find it hard to compare it to any other game, simply because its atmosphere is so unique. Combining extensive fishing mechanics with slice-of-life is a surprising but winning formula! It is both relaxing while having the drama in its plot and emotional messages. A sense of community in the little town is really envoked with the range of characters making you eager to help them.
However, the core gameplay for me was a tad too repetitive and overshadowed some of the story. I don’t mind some grinding in games, but having similar cooking mini games and casting your rod out of a boat continously was tough. When it’s necessary in order to progress too, it affected my ability to play hours at a time like with other RPGs. Nevertheless, I can understand this decision so you’re experiencing the daily grind in this slice-of-life style, and so you’re not rushing through the game.
Though there’s incentive to keep playing with the museum and the dozens of species to catch, the grind and length of the game means you probably won’t replay from the very beginning. This is by no means a bad thing though. If you’re looking for something unique and visually beautiful, and don’t mind the fishing grind or have a friend to play with, Moonglow Bay might just reel you in.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3 out of 5
You can purchase Moonglow Bay from the Microsoft Store here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.