Imagine, your significant other has, yet again, taken it upon themselves to spring a surprise road trip on you without telling you where you’re going. Though you feign a smile at it being a once-in-a-lifetime viewing of the Leonid meteor shower, you’re distracted by the glowing red eyes from a swarm of mothmen stalking at you from the forest. These aren’t the watered-down version of the cryptid from internet memes you joke about marrying. No, these creatures mean irreparable harm to you and your hopeless romantic partner.
Mothmen 1966, developed by LCB Game Studio, is a pixel-art choose your own adventure visual novel available on PC and consoles tomorrow. The game redeems the cryptid from its Tumblr-era lamp memes through its unnerving ‘80s home computer graphics and teases your brain with the death-defying choices throughout its pulp fiction-esque story.
You play as three characters: Holt, a curmudgeon gas station owner, Lee, a fool-hardy college student with a love for astrology, and Victoria, his sardonic girlfriend, as they fight to survive swarms of mothmen wreaking havoc in a podunk town.
Each chapter has you play from the perspective of a different character and make story-changing choices to keep these disparate and volatile strangers alive long enough to unravel the mystery behind the strange occurrences of the deadly creatures. Much like The Oregon Trail, making the wrong choice during deadly encounters can get the attention of gargoyle-like mothmen sitting atop streetlights, which will lead to failed states where you must repeat the encounter over again.
Because choices are only as “right” as the people making them, each character in Mothmen 1966 carries their own emotional baggage that manifests in juicy dialogue and divisive choices you make in the game. While its cast are initially one-dimensional characters who make shoddy eyebrow-raising decisions, their rationale starts making a modicum of sense once you play from their perspective in the following chapters. Changing character perspective across chapters not only provides a wider look at the kinds of personalities in the game, but it gives you ample wiggle room to lean into their worst traits or deviate from them while interacting with other characters.
Mothmen 1966 is a short romp, which unfortunately makes the pacing of its latter chapters too disjointed. Towards its finale, the game asks a little bit more out of you beyond the sci-fi premise of playing as a rag-tag group of cryptid survivors trying to get along. Although intriguing, these story developments come out of left field and aren’t given ample time to breathe before the game’s conclusion.