Moonglow Bay is a casual fishing, cooking, and life sim from indie developer Bunnyhug. The game follows the player’s journey to save a town that is steps away from death. To bring the town back to its former glory, player will cook delicious meals to sell at the local vending machines using fish they catch from the local waters to entice people back into Moonglow Bay.
Moonglow Bay is set in Eastern Canada in the 1980s, just days after our hero’s missing partner is declared legally dead. Their adult daughter returns home to help her parent through their grief. This is a huge unexplored potential for emotional depth in Moonglow Bay. It would have been nice for the writers to work through the journey of grief beyond a quick clean up and rebuilding life.
Getting to know the townsfolk is a big part of Moonglow Bay’s gameplay mechanics. Creating compelling dialogue is vital to keep players engaged. The writers do a good job, though more content would have been nice. Players will have long term interaction with both major and minor NPCs. Minor characters will provide fish names to add to the player’s journal. Major NPCs will share their stories and help drive the narrative forward. It’s just a disappointment that there is only enough content for several days as a longer-term relationships would have filled out the game.
Moonglow Bay is a casual game that mixes Harvest Moon and its descendants, Overcooked, and the River King franchise. The core gameplay loop is going to sea to gather seafood, bring the catch to the kitchen to prepare food, and selling the food in the local vending machines. It’s a slow-paced game that’s perfect for relaxing.
The fishing mechanics is on the simple side, more along the lines of an arcade fishing game than a full-blown sim. The upgrade system isn’t a true upgrade system, but rather offers new equipment designed to compliment a player’s fishing style. Bunnyhug makes a smart decision to augment the fishing by offering players more way to catch seafood with nets and lobster traps. There is a large variety of fish to catch. It’s nice to see the game encouraging players to be more conscious about their fishing by requiring players to use different combinations of equipment and locations to catch them all.
Sailing is a pleasant experience. Like the rest of the game, the ship controls are perfect for a casual game. The ship can turn on a dime, allowing players to get the perfect position to pull up to pools of fish without spooking them away. The game does have some wind that affects the boat’s handling. It tends to be pretty mild. It’s designed to help players move faster towards a direction than an actual danger that would push boats into deathly hazards.
Complimenting the large number of seafood is the number of recipes in the game. I really like the attention to detail, as many recipes follow roughly the same steps to cook the actual dish. The actual cooking involves small skill based minigames. Each cooking action will always use the same minigame, like the Overcooked series. If a player fails a minigame, it will impact the value of the dish. The penalty for a less than perfect dish isn’t very punishing, which helps the relaxed, casual pace of the game.
Moonglow Bay’s biggest problem are the endless quality of life issues. The game is buggy. Some of them range to mild annoyances, like nets getting caught on edges, to more serious game breaking bugs that requires a save and a load to at least partially undo the damage.
The save system is the biggest problem. To start with, there is no auto-save which is unacceptable considering a player must sleep after certain number of hours. It’s incredibly easy to forget to save manually considering how quicky a player can get caught up between fishing and cooking.
The map is awkward to use. There are no clear objective markers to tell player what quest objective is at that location. To get any further information, players need to back out of the map, open the system menu, and flip to a new tab to get to the quest log. The fact the quest log is tucked behind the system menu makes the whole experience all the weirder. A more logical approach would be to separate the system menu on its own, group all the in-game journals together, and better integrate the map and quest log so entries will link to each other.
The quest log could have more information. While errands and main quests are tracked, there are a lot of minor NPCs who will request specific dishes one time. I ended up having to jot down the name, description, and the requested dish on a separate piece of paper just to know what to cook and who to give it to.
Movement on the map is a bit tricky. There are very strict places on the map where players can move from one elevation to the other. It forces players to do some long, unnecessary detours. The most frustrating parts of the map are the areas connecting the beach to other locations. Some areas are short enough to cross, while others are too high to traverse even though it visually looks only slightly higher.
Moonglow Bay has a pleasant voxel style. The colours are bright and joyful, matching the game’s tone well. I like how the art team differentiated major and minor NPCs based on the level of complexity of the character; however, the art team would have benefited by putting the same level of effort into the different areas on the map. The zones in the ice and regular biomes are practically indistinguishable.
The audio also does a great job contributing to Moonglow Bay’s relaxed pace. The music is mostly a calm, almost meditative experience with its subtle ambient music. The sound effects are simple, but effective. The cooking sound effects are good, but I would have preferred to see a few more ambient noises of the kitchen as it gets a bit too quiet at times.
Moonglow Bay fills an empty niche in the casual life sim genre overflowing with farming games. The gameplay loop is addictive; I found myself booting up and soon discovering a few hours had passed. On the other hand, the poor quality of life issues hamstrings the game. Most of the issues can be solved with some time, but I think Moonglow Bay could have benefited from a short stint in an early access program or a closed beta. In its current state, Moonglow Bay is a good game, but more testing before launch could have turned it into a great game. Now, we just wait to see if the developers are able and willing to spend the resources to polish Moonglow Bay to a shine.
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