REVIEW: Bask in the Sweet Serenity of ‘Moonglow Bay’ (XSX)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Moonglow Bay - But Why Tho

Moonglow Bay is a slice-of-life fishing and cooking game with adventure elements developed by Bunnyhug and published by Coatsink. It is available now on Xbox via Gamepass and Steam. Fulfilling you and your partner’s lifelong dreams, you settle down in Moonglow Bay to fish your lives away and make a living selling street food from your hauls. But life doesn’t always go as planned, and a few years later, it’s up to you to save the town, and your life, from falling apart.

Moonglow Bay is one of those indie games that, within minutes, you are completely washed over by how much heart was poured into it that you are immediately and irrevocably in love. The graphics, the music, the story, and, soon after that, the gameplay are all worthy of prestige but together make a tried and true game type feel just as new and welcome as ever. This sweet and simple game is about four things: fishing as often as you can, cooking and selling food for your friends and neighbors, helping Moonglow Bay return to its former liveliness, and uncovering an intriguing and emotional mystery.

There’s a magnificent plot in this game. While it unfolds one of its biggest moments very early on, I will not reveal any of its details besides its enormity because I hope players will have the chance to experience those emotions of their own accord without reading about them first. And while a strong plot is certainly not a prerequisite of a good slice-of-life game by any means, having one to navigate in addition to your duties as a fishmonger was a great driving force in my time in the Bay.

Moonglow Bay is also just a wonderful game to explore. The 3D voxel-based art and designs are endearing, and I appreciate that the world is fully rotatable, rather than being 3D objects within a 2D plane or a fixed top-down perspective. It makes the world feel more inhabited while making navigation and exploration a bit fuller. The hand-drawn assets for the characters, fish, and recipes are all lovely as well, seamlessly fitting the aesthetic of the world despite their radically different medium. Oh my, and the music. By Lena Raine, it is among the very best ambiance-providing soundtracks of late. I can honestly say it’s worth playing just for the soundtrack.

Something also small but noteworthy about Moonglow Bay is that its playable characters are all older than the average game character. Like, at least in their 40s or 50s. Old enough to have an adult child. It’s a nice change to experience the perspective of somebody who has been at life for a while rather than the plucky young upstart we’re used to seeing. The game also lets you pick pronouns among he, she, and they, regardless of which character you choose. It even starts the cursor on “they” and changes the dialogue based on your choice. However, I wish the game would simply let you choose the pronouns you prefer rather than box you into three options,  especially because when you pick “they,” your daughter refers to you by your first name. It’s a bit odd to me, whereas if I could have chosen how she’d refer to me, I’d have been elated.

As for the actual playing of the game, it’s just entirely pleasant. You carry around a journal full of the tasks different community members might request of you, such as cleaning up trash, investigating strange things, filling up the town’s aquarium, and investing the refurbishment of old buildings. While I wish that games would start to move beyond the trope of “only I can save the town through capitalism with my hard-earned money that nobody else seems to be spending for some inexplicable reason,” I moved quickly past that disappointment because it was just fun making money. The two ways to do so are completing specific requests by townsfolk or selling food you cook out of your backyard.

Fishing is a matter of picking a rod, a lure, and bait to make catching certain types of fish easier or more likely, and using button-and-stick combinations to reel them in. Then you return home, where you do a cooking mini-game to complete the multiple steps in each recipe. The cooking mini-game is innocuous and sometimes a smidge challenging to nail, but it does get repetitive quickly when cooking a lot of items at once. The inexplicable slow movement inside your own house doesn’t help that feeling. Thank goodness for Cottage Laws, though, because I love the feeling of making these foods in your home and selling them out, basically, a vending machine in your backyard. It’s a nice touch too that wild animals populate the area, on top of the derelict nature of much of the town before you get to work on fixing it.

Exploring the seas to find new fish, complete quests, and uncover the game’s overarching mystery is never tiresome as Moonglow Bay’s ambiance and gameplay combine for a relaxing experience. It’s a lovely game all around with a few small but ultimately insignificant complaints that could be lodged. Truly, dive into Moonglow Bay and bask in its sweet serenity.

Moonglow Bay is available now on Xbox via Gamepass and Steam.


Moonglow Bay
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

Exploring the seas to find new fish, complete quests, and uncover the game’s overarching mystery is never tiresome as Moonglow Bay’s ambiance and gameplay combine for a relaxing experience. It’s a lovely game all around with a few small but ultimately insignificant complaints that could be lodged. Truly, dive into Moonglow Bay and bask in its sweet serenity.