Everyone knows that history and art are subjects in schools and exhibits in museums. Every gamer knows that video games also incorporate ancient stories as expressions of creative talent. Limbo, Journey, Ori and the Blind Forest are just some of the many titles that show how far story and art have gone in video games. They also demonstrated how playing an immersive expression of art can change how we feel about the overall product. The Mooseman uses puzzles and impressive visuals in the Perm Animal Style to tell an animal-style mythology of the Finno-Ugric tribes in Russia, but it falls short in delivering an impactful gameplay.
The game unfolds as you play as the Mooseman, as he travels through the Lower, Middle and Upper Worlds dealing with a variety of Finno-Ugric tribes’ mythological creatures and gods. The folk Komi music is one of the highlights of the game. It sounded similar to Asian or Middle Eastern music with high-pitched flutes and tambourines. I really enjoy Greek, Egyptian and Norse mythologies, and it was very intriguing to learn more about a history that was created by Russian tribes. The game developers also took inspiration from the Perm Animal Style of art, which is kind of a cross between Ancient Mayan and Viking etchings. The story of the creation of the world, the many creatures we live with, and the gods that are part of everyday life are some of the many tales that unfold throughout the journey of the Mooseman. As great as it was to learn about the mythology of the Finno-Ugric tribes, it was also very annoying how detached the learning process was.
You will pass totem-like poles throughout the game that will shine and also update the story log as you continue walking along. In order to ascertain a new story information, you must press R1 which pauses the game, wait for the text to be translated and then exit out of the menu screen. This mechanic happens so often and the story is so divided that I started to walk past a couple of poles before I paused and ran through the log so I could avoid doing it. Likewise, the same method are employed to learn about the Finno-Ugric animal collectables that you acquire throughout the journey. It's actually disheartening that such a slight annoyance hinders the game because it occurs so often that it makes a very big impression. While some players might never read these story notes, they are a big part of how I played the game and left me irritated by the process.
One of the best aspects about The Mooseman is the art direction and the Perm Animal Style of symbols that translate the story of the Finno-Ugric people’s mythology about the creation of the world. I did try to take time and just embrace the visuals as if the tale was being passed down to me through illustrations. There were moments, like looking at etchings on the cave walls or constellations in the sky, that really felt genuine and expressed a reality of our place in the cosmos. It’s weird to have such a great feeling looking at the visuals, while contrasting that with quaint and at times frustrating puzzles. Being the Horseman, a half-human and a half-god, you solve most puzzles by shifting from the present world to the other realm. A few puzzles are about changing symbols to align them together or figuring out how to pass an enemy without them stopping your path. I may be a bit lenient on simple gameplay but The Mooseman is fairly short and besides these few puzzles, it really offers nothing in terms of plaiyng.
Video games are one of the most encompassing art forms. They represent art with visuals and sound, but also with the physical representation. The Mooseman has an amazing musical composition that had me listening to folk music of the Komi for the first time. In addition to what I heard, the game also illustrated a history and mythology I had no prior knowledge of. Unfortunately, the game fell short in delivering a worthwhile gaming experience because it lacks actual gameplay design. After finishing the game, I felt that the Finno-Ugric mythology would have been better served by watching a cinema-quality short which The Mooseman essentially was.