Advertised as a “cozy” game, on that end, Moonglow Bay delivers (in that cozy equals depressing sort of way). But it’s also marketed as a “fishing RPG.” That game sets expectations that it ultimately doesn’t deliver. Indeed, I question what type of game Moonglow Bay ultimately wants to be. Do the developers even know? It’s a mishmash, and as such, it’s the type that’ll probably result in a love it or leave it response.

The game starts compellingly, with you taking control of a middle-aged to older character (from a minuscule selection). That’s not something I recall too many games doing (though the grief angle certainly rings a bell), and it makes Moonglow Bay stand out somewhat. So does the Eastern Canadian coastline setting, presented in voxel form, no less. With a unique character and setting, Moonglow Bay seems set to deliver a cozy fishing adventure RPG.

Sadly, once the opening narrative and tutorials conclude, you’re left with an element of aimlessness. Do you want to talk to the residents of the town? You’re encouraged to, though many (perhaps most) have little to say, at least initially, and aren’t very interesting beyond dropping tidbits about fish. Do you want to visit the various buildings? I’m shocked that such a big town has so little to enter; a real kick in the pants after slowly making your way to a spot on the map. Seriously, I get we’re playing an older character, but this sluggish walking speed soon grows weary. However, this might be a random glitch because it doesn’t always happen. In any case, the entire game starts a little too sluggish for my liking. At the point where it should be hooking you, you may find yourself turned off before getting to the better elements, like getting a boat and battling bosses.

Of course, you’re not just catching fish, but also cooking them, because what would a “slice-of-life” game be without that? We found the timing tricky, although both the burnt and undercooked meals still looked great. Perhaps this element was, may I suggest, undercooked? If real-life bankrupt towns depended on my cooking for survival, we’d be in trouble.

The voxel graphics are an acquired taste. Even as someone who enjoys these, they seem slightly out of place here. Meanwhile, my wife very much disliked them, which killed the potential for co-op play in the Gould household. The presentation can lead to getting stuck (again, the lead character isn’t agile), bugs or not. Thankfully, an in-game option lets you spawn at a safe point.

Something that should not be an acquired taste is the soundtrack. Lena Raine (Celeste) came through with compositions that kept me playing longer than I might otherwise. My tip is to lower the sound effects and dialogue in the options while cranking the music.

For all its original elements, Moonglow Bay surprisingly ends up taking popular elements from other games and not improving them. Now, if you’re looking for another game with a plot shaped by grief and haven’t had your fill of fishing, cooking, selling/donating, taking pictures, etc., this is for you. For me, it wasn’t what I expected. It might’ve worked three years ago when initially released on PC. But as a 2024 release on Switch, it’s too cliched and stagnant for me to give a broad recommendation.

Moonglow Bay failed to hook me, but as the debut game from a small studio, it’s a solid enough start overall for the subset of gamers who haven’t yet had their fill of titles like this. I hope the team can tighten their focus and gameplay mechanics for their next release.