Believe me, it’s not by active choice that I’ve been leaving such long periods between reviews, it’s been out of necessity. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had the time to play things, no I still manage to get that 1 sacred hour in a day…usually, but finding the time to write has been a lot harder. So my impressive, never before seen backlog of 5 games to review means I’m about 5 weeks behind the last game I’ve played and that’s making my reflection on these games very different. For emotional heavy hitters like Impostor Factory, the latest in the To the Moon series, this isn’t great as those impactful moments start to blur and blend into the background noise of everything that’s happened since there. So as I sit here, trying to remember those emotional peaks that made Impostor Factory memorable, I’m somewhat taken aback by my initial muted feelings. Only through re-exploring the plot and checking out some other reviews was I reminded of the true reason this hit home for me and why I need to get my ass back into gear and get these reviews out the door.

You’ve been invited to a manor, deep in the woods. It’s exterior is covered in vines, pieces crumbling down around it. The inside though paints a different picture, it’s like a temple sterility with its self cleaning floors and elaborate bathroom facilities. It seems you’re the first to arrive and this gives you an opportunity to explore as the others filter in. There’s something odd about this place, ancient yet filled with technical innovations that are straight out of a sci-fi movie. It’s then that you see her, the lady in the red dress, before something terrible happens: your hosts are murdered. You rush into the bathroom to catch your breath, taking your time to compose yourself before heading back outside to find that, unbelievably, there they are, alive once again. How is this happening? Or more importantly why?

We could speculate endlessly about Freebird Games’ choice to stick with an outdated version of RPG Maker, but it’s clear that they have no intent of changing the game’s aesthetic anytime soon. From that point of view it’s pretty much same old, same old for the game’s visual experience which is to say it’s fine, but is definitely showing its age even for these retro styled pixel art games. To be sure there’s definitely been a heavier investment in some of the pixel art pieces, and overall it’s more ambitious, but you can definitely see the limitations of the engine creeping in here. Having said all this though it’s a bit of a moot point, all of this stuff is simply here in aid of the story. No one is coming to play this because it’s a fancy pixel art experience, we’re all here to have a good ugly cry.

Finding Paradise seemed to indicate that the developer was on a track to develop more mechanically complex games and indeed, the opening sections of this game seemed to elude to that, but it’s actually gone the exact opposite way. Once you’re past the initial manor section of the game it settles very quickly into walking simulator territory, taking you through the story as a passenger without needing any meaningful interaction at all. To be sure there’s echoes of the previous game’s mechanics in there but they’re just lip service. So make no mistake, you’re being taken for a ride here, but given the developers focus on heavy hitting emotional narratives that’s not a bad thing at all.

This is where I’d usually launch into a tirade about judging a game’s ambitions vs its achievements and how well they aligned but with Freebird Games that’s always a bit….challenging. Kan Gao is an incredible shitposter when it comes to things like this and trying to judge his intent for what the games wanted to be and how they actually turned out is basically impossible. He did mention in one of his update videos that he’s had to delay all of his games, and that he has definitely learnt from that experience, but it seems that the challenges he now faces are even harder because of it. What that means specifically I can’t really say, but it doesn’t seem like he’s exactly unhappy with what he’s created.

More to the point, neither am I. Whilst I struggled with the game’s initial murder mystery sub plot, thinking that this series had taken off into the stratosphere of time loop mystery solving indie games that seem to be all the rage right now, when it finally settled into it’s walking simulator section I was actually relieved. It freed me from the anxiety that I’d be dealing with complex mechanics and incomprehensible plot lines that I’d have to piece together myself or consult endless wikis that were intertwined with more shitposting since that’s kind of the community’s jam when it comes to these games.

But the story that is told throughout the game is a compelling one, not least of which because I’m now a father for the second time around and strongly resonate with the challenges and issues that the game deals with. To be sure, I haven’t had to experience anything like what the game deals with, but all parents can relate to the agonising we do when it comes down to making choices between ourselves, our children and what society expects of us. The way it then ties the story back into the greater Sigmund universe is great, providing a richer backstory for one of the main characters and showing that there’s still a lot of interesting stories to tell that don’t revolve around the same mechanic that the last 2 games relied on.

Impostor Factory, much like Finding Paradise, might not have hit the same peaks as its originator did but it surely provides much the same experience game through a different kind of storytelling. To be sure it lacks originality and innovation, something I think we’ve come to expect from all games that get serialised, but there’s something to be said about just being able to enjoy a similar experience again with a new story to back it. It’s well worth the short play time and even if this is the first you’ve heard of this series it’s something you can get into without playing the others; they all work to build on each other to form something greater than the sum of their parts.

Rating: 8.5/10

Impostor Factory is available on PC right now for $14.50. Total play time was 3.2 hours with 100% of the achievements unlocked.

About the Author

David Klemke

David is an avid gamer and technology enthusiast in Australia. He got his first taste for both of those passions when his father, a radio engineer from the University of Melbourne, gave him an old DOS box to play games on.

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