Deliver Us The Moon: Revisiting this giant leap of a thoughtful space adventure

When I originally reviewed Deliver Us The Moon for this here magazine way back in Wireframe #28, I called it “one giant leap of a thoughtful space adventure”. Revisiting it three years on – largely as a result of its upcoming sequel gloriously gracing last issue’s cover – this sentiment firmly remains. More impressive now, however, is just how singular it continues to be in both its vision and execution – even compared to a lot of space-set games released since. This is a hard sci-fi title uninterested in dazzling players using rote cinematic tricks; instead it’s intent on keeping them immersed in the confines of its grounded, near-future depiction of what humanity’s lunar voyage amongst the stars might entail. KeokeN Interactive’s debut does all this and still finds time to evoke a strong sense of melancholy and isolation.

What’s at stake is beaten into your lowly astronaut right from the off. It’s 2059, Earth’s natural resources have been depleted, leading the population to rely on mining helium on the moon. Oh, and communication with the colony base there has just gone dark. As a setup it’s fairly simple (and a tad clichéd), but it’s more than made up for by the way Deliver Us The Moon builds up and maintains the importance of this bold task. Surprisingly, it’ll be a good two to three hours before our hero even sets foot on Earth’s satellite, first having to prep the rocket and complete its launch sequence in appropriately thrilling fashion.

This brief portion of the game, which takes place at the WSA (Worldwide Space Association) base, is essentially a tutorial, getting you up to speed on how basic actions like running, scanning, and how the majority of puzzles will work. That said, turning the hydrogen valves necessary to prime the rocket for launch, only to ignite its engines and then immediately rush into the cockpit before it threatens to leave without you, is one heck of a way to kick off what is otherwise a fairly chill solo mission in space. It’s evidence that Deliver Us The Moon can be bombastic when it wants to, yet only really does so when it makes sense, and never to the degree that it becomes overwhelming.

Most of your time traversing facilities like the Tombaugh Research Station, Copernicus Moonhub, and Reinhold Crater is spent investigating what caused the blackout five years before your arrival. You see, the MPT relay network is what’s responsible for transmitting helium to Earth, and now it’s your job to explore what happened here and realign those transmitters. Much of the context for this you learn through audio logs, text documents, and hologram messages, as expected. Adding a fresh layer of narrative complexity, though, is that your humble Fortuna astronaut isn’t actually the first to try and resolve this issue.

Soon after arriving on the space station situated directly above the moon, the various ephemera you uncover hint at not just what went wrong for the initial lunar colony but also the prior team of investigating crew, too. Through this, Deliver Us The Moon swiftly becomes a story about chasing ghosts, as you try to correct the course of humanity by understanding and overcoming the failings of the previous people here. Following breadcrumbs in such a manner is, of course, nothing new in games. However, it works superbly here to reinforce the idea that you’re the world’s last hope, letting you feel truly alone while still finding a way to have other voices guide you.

Swapping around power cells to open up base sections, aligning moon surface transmitters, and using your trusty floating robot companion – the ASE – to access locked-off areas quickly becomes second nature. And though it’s a shame the journey isn’t quite long enough to see these different puzzle types evolve into more in-depth versions of themselves, the wider narrative at play is enough to inspire you to push on. There’s a definite sense that KeokeN Interactive is still finding its feet here as a first-time developer. Evidence of this is seen in a much more interesting stealth-puzzle sequence present in the game’s last chapter, which was originally added post‑launch.

Despite this minor niggle, Deliver Us The Moon continues to be one of the most affectionate tributes to other pieces of hard sci-fi cinema, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Interstellar, and Moon, that I’ve ever played. The tools and gameplay mechanics it uses to relay the seriousness of its themes might be familiar, sure, but they’re streamlined in such a way that I can’t help but stay engrossed in this gripping sci-fi mystery. It’s already apparent that this year’s follow-up, Deliver Us Mars, is making some bold leaps in storytelling – there’s a protagonist’s face you can, you know, see, and a more varied set of environments to explore. My only hope is that when expanding in scope, KeokeN Interactive doesn’t lose the melancholic, world-weary edge that makes the original so captivating.

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