Mothmen 1966 Review

Decades ago, video games were quite rudimentary. Developers’ visions were limited by the technology at hand, and certain things couldn’t be done. That was just the reality of the early years of gaming and, while things have advanced exponentially, developers still face issues today.

Although great, realistic and flashy visuals help sell triple A games, not all developers aspire to make the prettiest or most lifelike experience. Whether it’s due to a limited budget, being new to game development, or a simple choice, we still see many titles that harken back to ‘the old days’ of 8 and 16-bit experiences. Some even take things further, and get their inspiration from the days of text-based DOS adventures, with one such title being Mothmen 1966 from LCB Game Studio and publisher Chorus Worldwide.

Advertised as being the first in a planned series of ‘Pixel Pulp’ adventures, Mothmen 1966 is a unique experience in today’s interactive world. Harkening back to the 1980s, with very basic ‘home computer graphics,’ this mostly text-driven visual novel is aimed at a certain crowd. By this, I mean older gamers who grew up playing text-based titles, and those who are looking for something traditionally ‘old-school.’

Over the course of the game’s 8 or so chapters, the player ‘controls’ a few different characters. This is done by choosing what they say and decide to do from text prompts, and solving a couple of puzzles by methodically choosing which pieces to alter. There’s no cursor, no traditional player control, and little in the way of action outside of a couple of mini-game like sequences where you must choose the correct order to (try to) take out different types of enemies. Failure to do things in the correct order always leads to a character’s death and the option to retry.

The narrative plays out in a small rectangle above the text prompts, featuring visuals that are both campy and very, very retro. Things look, play and feel like they would’ve in the 80s, with very rudimentary pixel art being used to bring the ‘action’ sequences to slow and methodical life. Nothing about Mothmen 1966 is modern or fast.

Before we move on, I must talk about the story, which I kind of glossed over above.

If you’re into folklore, unexplained phenomena and urban legends, you likely already have a good idea of what Mothmen 1966 is about. After all, people in West Virginia reported seeing strange, winged human/moth hybrids in that state’s Point Pleasant area, from November of ‘66 to December of ‘67. There was even a movie made about mothmen in the 90s.

This particular story begins just prior to the start of a meteor shower that has been anticipated for one hundred years. It’s a chilly night in 1966, and a young, teenaged couple is driving through a remote, wooded area. One has a great date planned, while the other has a secret. Meanwhile, the owner of the local gas station — who’s described as old, but still lives with and looks after his long paralyzed grandmother — receives visits from not only unruly kids, but also three men in black, while trying to stock shelves and play a challenging form of Solitaire. None of them know that this night will forever change them.

As you’ll see in its ‘box art’ and on its title screen, Mothmen 1966 not only takes inspiration from West Virginian urban legend, but also styles itself after the pulp comics and magazines of the 1950s, which featured strange creatures. It all fits together well, and goes with its other retro elements. This mishmash of eras also creates a campy and unpredictable vibe, which the out-of-this world story and in-game events take full advantage of. To say that this title is strange, surreal, odd and out there like Fox Mulder would be understating things. The story truly goes from odd to super strange over the course of its one-and-a-half to two hour runtime.

Achievement and trophy hunters will also look at this title and see what looks to be an easy list of challenges. For the most part, this is true. However, there are easily missable ones that rely on you to either choose the right dialogue option, pick the right (or horribly wrong) attributes to sketch or play a great game of this Uber-challenging version of Solitaire. Thus, getting the full 1000 or all of the trophies will take at least a couple of play throughs and some luck.

Going in, I was intrigued by what I read about this game, as well as what I saw from its marketing materials. As an open minded fan of the unknown, who grew up obsessed with The X-Files and horror movies, I knew that I had to give it a shot. However, I admittedly didn’t enjoy this one as much as I’d hoped, despite appreciating it and what its developers tried to do, regardless. Simply put, Mothmen is a game I respected more than I truly enjoyed.

For one, there isn’t a lot of replay value or true player choice. Although you’re given a bit of freedom in what you say or do, most of the experience is limited and restricted to what must be done to drive the narrative. Thus, I didn’t get the feeling that a second play through would result in much of a different experience. Then, there’s the fact that this is a brief and sometimes cumbersome experience, which can be obtuse and isn’t the most player friendly. Its combat puzzles mostly boil down to trial and error, and its lone puzzle (outside of the challenging Solitaire games) is hard to see or read. After spinning its numerous minuscule pieces, hoping to see some sort of pattern or connection, I was happy to find that there was an NPC who’d take over after I listened to him speak of strange patterns, Civil War history and urban legends.

Mothmen 1966 is an interesting start to this retro line of Pixel Pulps, but it seems to have bitten off more than it could chew. While I respect the developer’s goals, passion and what they were going for, I didn’t find the experience to be all that fun. Still, I appreciated its campy urban legends, its unabashed originality and its subject matter, no matter how odd and unbelievable the story became.

This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with. It was reviewed using an Xbox Series S.

Mothmen 1966 is an interesting and unique passion project, which is easier to respect than it is to play. Its initiative and retro throwback experience is marred by limited player choice, confusing puzzles and far too much trial and error.
Reader Rating0 Votes
The Good Stuff
Offers something different, and may be nostalgic for those who grew up in the 80s
Memorable subject matter, within a story that isn’t afraid to be campy or different
The Not-So-Good Stuff
Poorly explained puzzles
Too much trial and error
Not enough player choice