I’ve played quite a few life sim games lately. From the immersive but broken Book of Travels to the arduously boring Monster Harvest, the latest offerings in the genre have failed to inspire me. So, when I came across the trailer for the stunning and vibrant Moonglow Bay, I hoped that it would revive my interest in the over-saturated genre. Fortunately, while Moonglow Bay offers very few new ideas, the familiar experience it does offer is still engrossingly fun nonetheless.
“Moonglow Bay’s delightful aesthetic creates some truly immersive and magic vistas that make for enchanting memorable moments.”
It is clear from the outset that Moonglow Bay is a stunning video game. Its vast town and uncharted seas are beautifully brought to life through a unique voxel visual style that makes exploring its world a simultaneously detailed yet quirky experience. Additionally, its vibrant colour palette and impressive lighting make it an incredibly warm and cosy world to visit.
Watching as the boat bobs on the ebbing sea while the sun sets on the horizon and as you wait for a fish to snag your fishing lure is a mesmerising experience. Moonglow Bay’s delightful aesthetic creates some truly immersive and magic vistas that make for enchanting memorable moments.
I also found each of the character’s designs, both in their beautifully drawn portraits and their blocky exteriors to be charming and creative. The developers have managed to capture a lot of detail in each character despite the art style’s limitations. I didn’t feel as if anyone was unmemorable, and I caught myself calling each character by name as I passed.
“The general day to day activities of the town are enjoyable enough that I never got bored.”
When it comes to Moonglow Bay’s life sim elements, for the most part they’re pretty good. The fishing, while nothing special, is at least simple enough to create an addictive loop. Pulling back and shifting between left, right and down depending on which way the fish swims is easy enough to get the hang of. I never found myself doing this activity beyond a minute or two in one go, but it was satisfying and I never felt bored by it.
Similarly, the general day to day activities of the town are enjoyable enough that I never got bored. The tasks found on the town’s bulletin board add a nice level of direction for each day that ensures you always have something to do. It also helps you familiarise yourself with each of the town’s many residents which is a nice bonus. They never extend beyond give someone a fish or talk to this person, but it gives you something to aim for which is fun.
Cooking is a surprise element for me, as I wasn’t expecting it to be as involved as it is. There is usually multiple stages to each meal and each one has its own unique twist on a familiar minigame. You can expect to hit “L” at the right time to bake it successfully or move the dial around to meet a thin yellow line. It isn’t anything special, but it makes cooking feel more substantial than just waiting for a timer to tick down. It also made me feel a little more accomplished by the end of a day.
“For those looking for something a little more nuanced, Moonglow Bay doesn’t really offer that.”
Unfortunately, I feel the running theme is that there isn’t much in Moonglow Bay that feels particularly special. When its all combined, especially with the inclusion of exploration and sailing, it feels sweet and cosy. It is familiar in a good way, and never gets old. The world is colourful and vibrant enough and the minigames simple enough that boredom isn’t something you need to worry about.
However, for those looking for something a little more nuanced, Moonglow Bay doesn’t really offer that. There is a story of sorts, but it never treads ground we haven’t seen before. Berevment is overlooked rather quickly, and characters act predictably, albeit rather sweetly. It’s not particularly in-depth, but it can be moving and occasionally fun. Fortunately, the level of sacchrine never gets unbearable, and makes proceedings pleasant to go through.
Additionally, the world can at times feel a little video-gamey. Residents stay out at all times and rarely move from their designated spot. Most residents, save for those with character portraits, are simply there to detail specific fish. There are a few shops you can enter, all of which are lavishly detailed, but outside of that the world feels a little hollow. It is still a colourful and vast world, and one that is enjoyable to visit each day. Unfortunately, it never extends to the heights it really should.
“For its modest pricepoint and amount of content, Moonglow Bay proves itself to be a solid entry into the life sim genre.”
However, I really feel it would be unfair to call Moonglow Bay boring or even unoriginal. Sure, it takes a lot of mechanics and inspiration from other titles and does little more than pack them into one neat package. But it is the execution of that package that makes Moonglow Bay glow. Its overall quality combined with its laidback atmosphere makes it a genuinely fun game to play.
This won’t be for everyone, and many people will feel like they’ve seen it all before. I sure did. But there is a sense of genuineness and a clear amount of passion gone into this wonderful title. The sheer amount of fish and variety in meals you can make is a testament to the dedication poured into it. For its modest pricepoint and amount of content, Moonglow Bay proves itself to be a solid entry into the life sim genre.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the Publisher.