Moonglow Bay was born from the great idea of making a fishing mini-game a complete experience in itself and is a nice indie title from the recently released developer Bunnyhug. It is set in a dilapidated ’80s fishing village, with an exquisite voxel visual style and a plot that will stir even the toughest of hearts. Among so many fishing simulation titles of the same genre for current consoles, this game undoubtedly stands out conceptually and, luckily, is generally pretty consistent.
In this lovable story you slip into the role of a middle-aged widow who moves to the city that gives the game its title after the death of her husband. At the beginning of the story, your character is an absolute disaster: the floor of the small beach house where she lives alone without a job or future prospects is full of instant noodle containers. But River the daughter later returns home convincing you to take control of your life and follow in the footsteps of your husband, a former fisherman. There’s only one small problem: the city owes a huge debt to the urban legends that terrified residents so much that they stopped fishing. Of course, as is so often the case, it’s up to you to save them and find out if there is any truth behind these mysterious sailor stories.
Like I said, a good thing is that the story is very deep emotionally and all of the characters come across as very natural and authentic, like everyone you meet on the street. I also really like that the protagonist has her own, well-defined personality and is not just a puppet like in so many other titles. The only thing missing here in my opinion has to do with the Spanish translation. Basic details like gender pronouns haven’t been translated well, which is surprising considering how quickly they appear in the game. Of course, I can’t say if this applies to all languages except English, but it’s something to keep in mind.
The main activity here is fishing, of course, and the truth is you can get into it pretty deep. Before throwing the rod into the sea, you need to think about the hook, bait, and rod you are going to use as these elements will affect the fish you can catch. The location is also important, so you’ll have to sail the seas in an old fishing boat and experiment in different locations. To pick up the line you need to react at the right time and pull the rod in the opposite direction from which the fish will pull. However, if you are too aggressive, the rod will break and the fish that has been bitten can swim freely again.
There are more than 100 species of exotic fish in this game, and the task of classifying them and discovering their strange origins is addicting. You will keep a journal that works a bit like a Pokédex in that it stores data such as the size of the fish, weight, and individual characteristics. There are fun things like the fish they say motivates infidelity or the one who is supposed to be the source of the city’s gossip. In addition to catching fish, you can set up lobster traps and spread nets to collect sea fleas and other creatures that you can use as bait.
Once caught, you can donate the fish to the city’s aquarium or prepare tasty dishes to sell. By donating them you can learn more about them and see them swimming in the tanks of the aquarium. To cook you have to play different mini-games that consist of tasks like cleaning, slicing, frying and cooking. I get tired of these mini-games quickly because they only ask you to press a button at the right time or move the controller to a specific spot, and it doesn’t help to have to repeat the same actions on all dishes.
The third and final pillar of Moonglow Bay is the life simulator functions. You can meet and make friends with lots of colorful characters in the city. By completing the villagers’ quests that appear on the bulletin board, you will most effectively earn clams (the game’s currency) that can be used to upgrade your fishing gear and base of operations. The missions you need to complete usually have to do with cooking a specific recipe or hunting a specific fish for someone (you know, I just do it), but it’s all part of the same infinite loop.
While it is undeniable that Moonglow Bay is an adorable game, it is sometimes very difficult to find your way around this blocky world. First of all, the map doesn’t tell which mission a particular target marker belongs to, so it can be difficult to navigate unless you disable all other active missions. Even walking around the map can be a chore at times. The game does not take place on the plane and your character cannot jump so you will always have to find a path that is adjacent or leading up depending on the area you want to travel, which is not always very clear.
I’ll admit that in all these 28 years fishing has never piqued my interest, but Moonglow Bay managed to catch me from the start. I loved cataloging its wonderful and weird aquatic fauna and I had a lot of fun seeing what I found on another bait or in a different location. That being said, the cooking mini-games are a bit boring and I hope there will be a patch in the future to make it easier to navigate. If you’re looking for a charming, creative, indie game that can’t be compared to anything else, you might find something far worse than this.