Before I left the colorful showfloor at PAX West last weekend, I had one more title to play. The game was Lifeless Moon, and if that sounds familiar it's because, yes, it's from the same studio that brought us Lifeless Planet back in 2015. Lifeless Moon is billed as a spiritual successor to the 2015 sci-fi adventure-platformer and the game's lead designer David Board told me it doesn't just look a lot like Lifeless Planet, it takes place in a shared universe. Whereas Lifeless Planet took place on an alien planet in the future, the follow-up takes place during the early days of space exploration, the Apollo era.
David had an air of excitement about him, like he was a sci-fi fan first and foremost and thrilled to finally talk about the game and its story universe, just to see his narrative shared. In Lifeless Moon, two astronauts headed for the moon find themselves mysteriously back on Earth. That one sentence tease is all David would share but it was more than enough for me as I didn't want anything spoiled. I found the plot of Planet to be an excellent example of the intimate science fiction stories of which only indie games are really capable and I wanted to go into its successor with fresh eyes and ears.
I played a short demo with Lifeless Moon on PC as others tried out the game's VR capabilities. Of course, it can be played without VR on Xbox One. The addition of the peripheral is only meant to enhance the first-person puzzling moments with which players from the first game are familiar. David said Moon will have more of an emphasis on puzzling than its predecessor, and the low gravity platforming will return too, as I saw in my time with the game. Also making a return was the eerie quiet that made the first game so atmospheric. Even in the crowded setting of PAX, I could sense it.
What stood out to me most was the moment when I emerged from a cave to see what looked like a vast lake overseen by mountains with an earthly looking home on the shore. The scene not only looked considerably nicer from a technical perspective compared to Lifeless Planet but it seemed familiar. It looked plausibly like Earth, and I mention that because the whole time I played I pondered if I was truly on my home planet. I left without any irrefutable evidence one way or the other, but I can't shake the feeling that not all is as it seems in Lifeless Moon.
Lifeless Moon plays a lot like its predecessor, and once again the story it sets up is gripping.
After I played I mentioned to David the strong Twilight Zone vibes I got from playing, even more so than the game's predecessor. Particularly, it felt a lot like the episode "I Shot An Arrow Into The Air", and anyone familiar with the episode will notice the similarities in the premise for the game. David seemed happy to hear the comparison as, like me, he says he is a big fan of the seminal genre anthology. Moon plays so much like Planet that it's hard to see how fans of the first game won't like this one. If you found the story in Lifeless Planet to be its strongest suit, I'd agree, and though I can't speak to Moon's complete plot's merits, David and Stage 2 Studios have earned my trust after a great first game and a hard to ignore premise.
The game made its official reveal on the Twitch stage at PAX just hours after I previewed it. David announced the game's Kickstarter campaign and its intended arrival on Xbox One in 2018 via the ID@Xbox program. The crowdfunding campaign has a few weeks remaining and if you're the type to support content you enjoy in that way, it's not too late to check it out.
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