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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

PAX East 2023: Mooneye Games Warms the Hearts of Gamers with Shumi Come Home and Farewell North

Not all games have to be explosions and shooting. Gaming has proven to be a means to understand the complexity of human emotions better. The need to belong. The desire to connect. How to navigate complex feelings like grief and loss. It can be argued our culture has been contending with this since the turn of the millennium, between the War on Terror and the 2008 economic recession, but the last eight years alone have bubbled mental health to the surface of conversation.

Mooneye Studios has a penchant for creating games that make one think and feel. Lost Ember was a spiritual story of love. Haven Park is a tale of peace and the togetherness that comes with camping. Mooeneye Studios showed two games at PAX East that brought players a feeling of togetherness and peace. I had a chance to play Shumi Come Home and Farewell North. I met with Tobias, one of the lead members of publisher Mooneye Studios.

Shumi Come Home

Shumi is a mushroom. Lost and alone, he sets out on a journey to come back home. That journey is not as easy as it sounds. Shumi is somewhere in the wilderness, surrounded by strangers and unknown beings. While alone, Shumi seeks to help others on their journey. By interacting with the citizens of the forest, Shumi may be able to find a means to get home and make a difference.

"Shumi's ideas came during the early days of COVID and the lockdowns," Tobias told me as I got to playing the demo. "There was a sudden absence of communication and togetherness. We all felt loneliness set in quickly as we couldn't make our way to each other. Shumi Come Home is a cozy adventure about finding friends. It's also a cozy adventure designed for 5 to 6 hours of play."

Playing Shumi was simple. Shumi moves around in a hub world and encounters different pant-like beings. They have predicaments that turn out to be puzzles that Shumi can solve. Each task completed leads Shumi closer to home. The game is presented in a retro 3D aesthetic not too far from the Nintendo 64 days. There is a pleasant soundtrack that plays during the game, and characters interact through speech bubbles.

There was a pleasant and relaxing feeling playing Shumi Comes Home. There is no overarching story of impending doom but simply finding a way home when lost. Interacting with each character was warm but also lively, with good humor. I found myself chuckling a few times, talking to the various plants in the grass. Shumi has a personality of confidence and wonder.

Shumi has the simple hook of performing tasks. The demo included collecting fruits, gliding across the land, and platforming. There was a desire to learn more and see more as well. One task had me grab berries to help feed a lizard to move out of a cave. Going to the different characters was interesting as they had their predicaments to contend with. This heightens a world that is also separated and lost in some ways.

The more I played, the more I understood the developers' intentions in finding connection and togetherness in a strange and lost world. There is something comforting in talking to others and helping them out in their plights. It was a heartwarming sensation that I was happy to feel at that moment.

Shumi Come Home certainly appears to be an ambitious yet wholesome game to play. The visuals were nostalgic, and the gameplay was simple. It is in these times that we are reminded that games like Shumi Come Home are just as important as the next big release. Shumi Come Home is arriving at a time when we need to be reminded of the comfort of others and wholesomeness of selfless service.

Farewell North

On a lone and cold island, a small car arrives at the outskirts of a rocky settlement. From the passenger side, a border collie hops out. On the driver's side, a young woman. The woman is carrying a vase and comments to herself that she needs to fulfill something. It's clear that she has lost someone near and dear to her and needs to go through a challenging journey to bid farewell and find peace. The only one to help her is her dog. This is Farewell North.

"Farewell North was made by one man, Kyle Banks. He wanted to create an experience reflective of our own. He grew up in Scotland and wanted to make a game featuring that environment as well,"

Tobias tells me as the demo boots up. Depression and loss are incredibly deep and personal thoughts to interpret. GRIS, Hellblade, and the recently released The Wreck are just some examples of trying to process such a seismic shift in one's life.

When approaching such a subject, it helps to place it in a refreshing perspective. Farewell North already succeeds in this regard. From the beginning of the demo, I was immediately immersed in its imagery. The world is without color and in various shades of white and grey. This feels appropriate, given that dogs are color blind and given the context of the game's objective. Additionally, unlike other games, you are a dog and companion to the bereaved.

Shortly after the demo begins, the woman freezes and appears overwhelmed. Three shadow figures appear and block her progress. Players are tasked with helping her overcome these obstacles for her. Three butterflies glow in the distance, signifying importance. The demo had me run to these butterflies and call them with a bark, a task that took a bit more effort than expected but was far from impossible.

Farewell North encourages exploration and using resources in the field. Grabbing a specific flower temporarily emits color to help guide players through the environment. Barking and retrieving the goal, in this case, the butterflies, emitted grand vibrant colors as well. Running around and being a dog feels right, but it's in the puzzle-solving and the reward that Farewell North has an emotional punch.

The demo had two simple puzzles in navigating and retrieving the butterflies. Jumping up a few rocky outcrops got me to two of them. Each butterfly removed a show figure. For the last one, an illusion puzzle formed. A bridge appears destroyed from one viewpoint, but from another view, it can look complete. Searching a nearby cave, I found a vantage point that solved the puzzle and allowed me to cross. With the last butterfly retrieved, the last shadow was defeated.

I helped escort the dog owner across a bridge, using my barks as guidance. She remarked about where to go and to wait up for her. After a few jumps and navigations, I was taken to a memory. A strong memory. In the final parts of the demo, something incredible happened. The butterflies united, and the area erupted in color.

A bench appears, and the woman imagines herself being a kid again. An apparition of her younger self, and her parents, unfolds, and she is seen laughing and playing with the butterflies. She can hear the voices of her parents talking to her. HFfareer mother goes on to remark about the butterflies and the beauty of nature. At that moment, time stands still, illuminated in color, and the woman remarks on a moment she will cherish and pass on to the future.

The demo ends by teasing a grand adventure ahead. Kayaking, whales, and other imagery teases many moments that will be encountered on the journey. Farewell North was designed around the famous Scottish highlands and islands of Orkney and St Kilda. This means there will be plenty to be seen and explored.

With this demo over, I was already intrigued by what was to come and how this journey of saying farewell would conclude. If anything, perhaps the use of grey and white was a little too good, as I found myself getting a little disoriented from time to time. However, it was nothing I couldn't maneuver.

It's tough to say farewell. We will all have to do it at some point in our lives. We will learn ways to grieve and find closure. Some of us cry. Some of us go on retreats. Others pray and may just take a good long look at the ocean for a while. One who is bereaved may visit the grave of a loved one, crack open a beer, and share a few laughs about what has transpired since then. Entire cultures form celebrations around the departed from Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico to Shraddha in India.

Farewell North is shaping up to be another strong game among the likes of GRIS and Hellblade. What else will happen on this journey is anyone's guess, but based on the gameplay, I was incredibly intrigued and ready for what comes next. Farewell North got its point across loud and clear, and I hope many others go on this journey of saying goodbye.

Farewell North launches in 2023.

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