Fishing has always been a fun distraction in gaming. Many of these have appeared as mini-games, such as the newly-added fishing feature in the latest Skyrim port. In Moonglow Bay, the fishing is front and center, with approachable mechanics that hold a fair amount of depth. When combined with the fun and emotional storyline the titular small-town setting will quickly prove that there’s always something to do.
You and your significant other have moved to the fishing town of Moonglow Bay. After tragedy strikes, you’re visited by your daughter, River, who tries to help you relive the dream of your departed partner, whose mission was to breathe new life into the town by fishing. Moonglow Bay has fallen on hard times, with people afraid to fish because of legends and conspiracy theories. While the storyline is fun and full of twists and turns, as previously mentioned, the fishing is where it’s at.
The objective of fishing is simple, but offers an engaging amount of depth. The further out you cast, the more likely you are to get a bite, but some fish can be feisty when you’re reeling them in. Every fish will try to get away by moving in one of four directions: up, down, left, or right. By forcing them the opposite way you’ll slowly bring them closer to you, where you can use a burst of power to pull the fish out of the water.
Fishing is fun, engaging, and varied. Using your fishing boat, the Two Tails, you’ll go beyond the bay and into the deep blue to find tons of different types of fish. The Two Tails can also be upgraded to weather storms and even become a home away from home. You’ll be able to mix and match different types of fishing rods and bait to catch specific combinations of fish types. This can make finding a specific fish an easy task, while also allowing switches to a broader range of species on the fly. You can also use a fishing net while out on the sea to grab large groups of fish that are visible from the boat.
Once you’ve caught your fish, you can cook them and sell your dishes at vending machines you’re able to set up around town. Cooking is another fun minigame with a good amount of depth, as the variety of dishes you’re able to cook is wide. Each type of ingredient is different and must be prepared with a series of different timed-tap style minigames. As you progress, you’ll gain access to more recipes and even cooking tools to unlock even more possibilities, such as a meat cleaver.
You’re also able to donate your fish to the local aquarium. Donating the fish to the aquarium is an important part of restoring the beauty of Moonglow Bay. Since many of the townsfolk have been claimed by the sea, the majority of the town tell stories and see the fish as monsters, to the point where nobody knows what they’re called. When donating fish to the aquarium, you’ll demystify these rumors and bring more tourism to the town. It also serves as a bonus to the food you make to earn you more money for each of your dishes.
Moonglow Bay’s visuals are in a charming block-pixel voxel style, shown to you from a top-down camera angle. The colorful characters and fish pop in the cleverly crafted block world. When combined with a soundtrack that evokes a wide range of emotions, from contemplative to tension-filled, it gives the game and its characters a charm that’s hard to ignore.
While the main feature of Moonglow Bay is the fishing, the town itself is a surprisingly eventful place. There are tons of fun personalities that are all willing to tell you the latest gossip. Many also have quests that you can take, big and small, to help turn the small town into a better place. A town board assigns these tasks in a streamlined manner and also gives you a read on what dishes are popular that day. Using the funds you earn from cooking and fishing, you are also able to invest in properties around town, which will all aid in your quest to become an ace angler by unlocking more shops and quest hubs. It’s also an important part of your lost loves’ wishes to bring life back to this quiet little town.
The narrative surrounds everything you do in Moonglow Bay. The story is one of persevering through the hardest of times, which both the main character and the town itself are currently suffering through. As you begin to show the people of the town that their fears of the sea may be unjustified, many will appreciate it, but others may not be so trusting of your entrepreneurial actions and question your motives. Characters won’t always understand your actions or methods you and your daughter use to achieve your goals, especially when you’re about to go into a boss fight. The friction these interactions cause leads to some impactful storytelling moments that tend to be very emotional, making the narrative a gripping one.
While Moonglow Bay hits a lot of the right beats, it’s got a few nitpicks that end up taking away from the experience. Since each fight is done through fishing the boss fights feel unique in their design, but can be a bit one-dimensional or tedious. You feel this the most during more chaotic fights that simply feel out of place. There are also a few quest markers that don’t necessarily line up with what you’re supposed to do or where you’re supposed to go, making the game flow feel awkward at times. These are ultimately small criticisms in the face of everything else the game gets right, however.
Moonglow Bay is a fantastic experience that can be enjoyed by everyone. Fishing is engaging and fun, as is cooking, and moving out onto the sea every day is something you end up looking forward to. The story surrounding you and your daughters’ mission to bring beauty back to the bay is heartwarming, with a fantastic set of background characters to add to its charm. While boss fights may feel out of place or unintuitive, they ultimately don’t take away from everything the game does right. With fun gameplay, a heartwarming story and charming voxel visuals, Moonglow Bay proves to be an experience worth your time.
A PC key was provided by PR for the purposes of this review
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