The moment you’re dropped into the atmospheric pastel world of The Mooseman there’s a sudden sense of intrigue; what world is this, what do the glowing cave drawings mean and why is my main character wearing a skull for a hat? Although all these questions are answered on your insightful 2-hour journey through Russian folklore, they are done so while embarking on a somewhat easy puzzle adventure, often making you feel more a bystander than an interactive element of the story.
Taking the role of The Mooseman, a half human half god creature, you have the ability to see what the human eye cannot. Using this ability you’ll need to switch between reality and mythical fantasy to solve several environmental puzzles and boss encounters. This mechanic works very well with the simplicity of the game as you only have the option of moving left or right and switching between god vision and reality – making The Mooseman playable to just about anyone straight off the bat.
As you’d expect, the puzzles on offer start pretty simple. For example, finding a gap in your path with nothing around can halt your progress, but simply switching to your spirited view will conveniently turn that old log into a snake which can now be moved. As your adventure progresses The Mooseman finds interesting ways to extend on this mechanic, but despite these puzzle remaining interesting they are very simple – especially the boss encounters.
As you make your way to the end of each god-inspired section you’ll encounter the creature that was worshipped in that part of the Russian folklore story. However, these visually pleasing encounters are over as quickly as they start, which is due to there extremely shallow mechanics and on-the-nose methods of completion. There is one exception here, which comes at the end of an underwater section where you face off against a fecking huge pike. This encounter provided some genuine tense gameplay and well thought-out mechanics, making it by far my favourite section of the entire game.
Between these boss encounters you’ll find gameplay fluctuating between these spirt-inspired puzzles and reading a lot of lore-rich text. Venturing through the underworlds will see you come across totem pole style checkpoints, which also hold narrative within them. Some of these passages can be pretty long but all of them are excellently written; I often found myself looking forward to the next part of the story and to hear why Yen was worshipping a giant fish.
Outside of these insightful totem poles lies one other collectable in the form of artefacts. These are represented as mini wall paintings and finding them helps provide a little more detail to the in-depth narrative on offer. Despite the fact that these artefacts offered more narrative I rarely found myself really searching for them. If one happened to pop up on my quest through the spirited world then that was great, but outside of achieving a platinum trophy, I found little encouragement to search high and low for them.
There’s no denying The Mooseman did provide me with an enjoyable and insightful journey through a realised, Russian folklore inspired world. The simple puzzle design and failure to really build a challenge on the games interesting ‘spirit sight’ mechanic can often make you feel like a bystander. The Mooseman isn’t a game for everyone but if you’re in the market for a short, story-driven puzzler that doesn’t off a substantial challenge then this spiritual journey is one you should probably embark on.