In mid-November of 1966, a couple in the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia reported being chased by a large winged creature with glowing red eyes while driving by an old World War II munitions plant. Following that sighting, many others began to report similar experiences of being pursued by the monster that would begin to be referred to as “The Mothman.” Nowadays Mothman is a big part of Point Pleasant’s tourism industry, with a statue and an entire annual festival honoring whatever it was. Mothman is my favorite cryptid the United States has ever produced, and the main reason I mention all of this is so you know that’s why Mothmen 1966 originally caught my eye, and also so you can feel my slight disappointment when it turned out that Mothmen 1966 wasn’t really about that in the long run.
Mothmen 1966 is a visual novel/retro style adventure game where the player switches between three characters’ perspectives. Holt is the owner of a local gas station and model gun enthusiast taking care of his paraplegic grandmother and spending his free time playing an impossible version of solitaire. Victoria and Lee are a young couple at a rocky point in their relationship, both worried that they might just be settling for the most convenient option. When Lee surprises Victoria with a date at Holt’s station, the ideal place to watch an upcoming meteor shower, the four get pulled into a violent scenario when packs of bipedal animal-like monsters, or “mothmen” begin to gather and attack the gas station. Along with a writer and researcher named Lou, the group must figure out how to survive the night, escape, and possibly eliminate the monsters for good.
Every once in a while, the game will offer a dialogue choice to the player, though I never personally noticed a substantial effect on how the story goes as a result. The most prominent bits of gameplay are the few times you perform an action in what could possibly be referred to as a minigame. These can range from scaring off a pack of coyotes to having to shoot certain street lights to drive some mothmen away. These sections come with two problems, the first of which is how they are formatted entirely in the same way as the dialogue choices. A group of menu options will appear, and selecting one will take you into another set of options nested inside the one you previously chose. Even if this method is simple overall, it still feels incredibly clunky especially as some of the sequences become slightly more complicated such as a rather frustrating tile rotation puzzle near the end of the game. There is a sense that the developers knew some of these puzzles would be frustrating in how they are formatted, as at least one of them includes an option to have the game just solve it for you. Another issue with these sequences is that many of them feel a bit too much like trial and error, having to discover the exact combination of actions to take in order to be successful, usually requiring you to fail multiple times as there is often no real guidance as to how to reach a positive outcome.
There are a few things Mothmen 1966 does well: its pixel art and overall aesthetic are fantastic. The developers’ attempt at recreating the feeling of playing a very old PC game is completely successful, and is likely the thing I will remember the most about the game. The issue is that this is not enough to get around a general clunky feeling to gameplay and a story that doesn’t feel all that unique or memorable in the end. If you enjoy a slower paced, more text-based approach to horror, or just want to feel some nostalgia for DOS era games, it may be worth giving Mothmen 1966 a look. However, without these very specific desires, I find myself struggling to enthusiastically recommend it to anybody else.