Mothmen 1966 Review: An Engaging Retelling of American Folklore
Fun fact: When I was young, my dream job was being a cryptozoologist. At the time, I didn’t realize it was pseudoscience (of the best kind, if you ask me), I just knew that devoting my life to finding all the things that go bump in the night, which creep through our dreams and nightmares, and that have inspired millennia of folklore sounded like the absolute best job in the world. And among all the cryptids that caught my impressionable 90’s-kid mind, the Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia was one that always stuck out as particularly creepy and ominous.
So when LCB Game Studio came along with their visual novel Mothmen 1966, I had immediate flashbacks to the days when I’d painstakingly search the internet (then known as the Internet and frequently provided by free AOL discs we picked up from Blockbuster Video) and greedily devour any tidbits of information on cryptids I could find. I practically jumped at the chance to review this game.
Pixelated Pulp Fiction
Mothmen 1966 is billed as a “Pixel Pulp,” and the inspiration comes through beautifully. For those not familiar, pulp fiction refers to the cheap, sensationalist magazines and books that were quite popular in the early-to-mid 1900s (so called because it was, literally, fiction printed on cheap paper made from wood pulp). Trading the physical paper medium for pixels, and voila, you’ve got a pixel pulp! Mothmen 1966 draws on the aforementioned mythos of the Mothman legend, though the writer (author Nico Saraintaris) makes it something truly unique. The game takes place in November of 1966, focusing on the confluence of unlikely characters – a couple with a strained relationship trying to have a date night, a cantankerous gas station owner, and a paranormal investigator.
The story is told through a series of chapters, with each chapter focusing on a different character. Although the game is fairly short, the writing is really quite superb, with fully fleshed-out characters that have their own thoughts, feelings, dreams, and fears. I found myself surprisingly invested in their wellbeing despite only getting to know them for such a short while. Sure, the story is frequently over-the-top, but that’s the point of pulp fiction, and the writer does an excellent job of keeping you on the hook from start to finish. Honestly, I can’t reveal too much more of the story itself, what with the game being a visual novel, but I really do want to reiterate how well Mothmen 1966 draws from its inspirational well.
More Than Your Average Visual Novel
While the bulk of Mothmen 1966 is reading text, you are given enjoyable breaks in the form of mini games. Well, perhaps mini games isn’t quite the right word, but it’s the closest word to describe it. From time to time you’ll be faced with scenarios that can easily end in instant death if you’re not careful. For example, at one point you’ll be outside of your car, surrounded by coyotes, and you’ll have to figure out how to scare them away without letting them sneak up on you. Another example, and my personal favorite, was the “impossible” solitaire game. I wasn’t able to beat it, but I definitely put in way more time than was probably necessary playing it.
Visually, Mothmen 1966 is definitely a pixelated pulp. Grainy, with a limited color palette composed primarily of blues and greens, with a splash of white or red for contrast, the game somehow manages to feel like an old pulp rag and an 80s computer game at the same time – and I mean that in the absolute best way. There’s a lot of nostalgia baked into this game, and yet it’s done in a way that doesn’t feel like a cheap cash-grab. The soundtrack is frequently repetitive, but I honestly didn’t mind. And I found the beeps and bloops of the old-fashioned sound effects particularly endearing.
A Solid Start to a New Series
Mothmen 1966 is one of those games where it’s really hard to find anything concretely wrong with it. Really my only complaints are that the game feels perhaps too short (which is a selfish complaint, let’s be honest), and that maybe the narrative could have branched a bit more with the choices you made. Still, overall, these are pretty minor complaints. Mothmen 1966 is a game that truly lives up to its own advertising and hype, providing a unique pixelated pulp-fiction approach to the visual novel formula, while focusing on a delightfully creepy, bizarre bit of American folklore. If this is the first in the series, I can’t wait for more.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One; Publisher: Chorus Worldwide Games; Developer: LCB Game Studio; Players: 1; Released: July 14th, 2022; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $8.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.