Moonglow Bay is one of those cozy games that have been coming out lately. To me, they’re a welcome change to a hobby that can often be packed full of ultra-violence. And after the last few years of this dumpster fire that we call life, it is needed. I’ve spent many hours with Moonglow Bay, fishing and cooking, and I have had a wonderful time with it. A fishing sim that has you cooking and selling your food is a new take on the sim genre, but does it work?
Moonglow Bay starts very much like Disney’s Up did. Paints a beautiful picture of you and your partner starting your life. Your hopes and dreams to fish and make Moonglow Bay a better place through food! And then much like in Up, this game brings you crashing back to the unfairness of life as you realize your partner is no longer alive. Moonglow Bay has continued on its downward spiral and so have you. It’s all quite sad and tough but necessary for the foundation of the game.
Your daughter arrives in town and informs you that she is working for the city and through this wants your help. This motivation gets you going again and pursuing the dream you and your partner had set out to achieve. You set out by getting your old boat fixed and a vending machine in place to sell the beautiful and delicious dishes you will be serving the town.
As you progress you help this town get over the superstitions that keep them from fishing and generally living really. You work with a local museum to stock the fish you catch. You will invest your money into local businesses and revitalize this quaint fishing town to the bustling port it truly is.
At its core, Moonglow Bay is a fishing and cooking simulator with a little town-building mechanics thrown in. About 80% of your time will be spent fishing and cooking. While somewhat a touch repetitive, there is enough here to keep your attention. The other 20% of the time here is talking with the locals to “learn” about fish in the area, catching sand fleas, bringing food to people, stocking a museum, and investing in properties to rehab this town. I’m going to split this section up into 3 parts to better cover each.
I wanted to quickly note that this game does support local co-op and while I have not had the chance to try it out I’ve heard great things about it.
Fishing is the main draw to Moonglow Bay and with that, it comes with a whole slew of mechanics present for it. As you play through in the beginning you will be collecting 3 different fishing rods than the default. Ones that allow for longer casts or one that has a stronger pull when you yank on the line. You also choose the kind of lure (plug, spinner, jig) which will play to certain kinds of fish. Some are for more aggressive ones and others are for more docile. Certain combinations of these and using low-grade or high-grade bait can help you catch certain fish.
Fishing nets and lobster traps provide a different view on fishing in Moonglow Bay. You can drop lobster traps anywhere you run and come back when they’re full. Thankfully as you drop it a marker on your map shows up so you don’t have to remember where you left it. Fishing holes show up throughout the water. These areas allow you to throw your net from the bow of your boat and catch a lot of fish at once. This is a great way to have fruitful runs in between searching for the prize catches.
The Fight when you have a fish on the hook plays out like how you would kind of expect. You cast, wait for a fish to bump it a couple of times, then start reeling once the fish takes the bait. As the fish turns you need to move your rod in the opposite direction to maintain pressure on the line or lose the fish. You can yank on the line which pulls it in quicker but this is limited to a stamina meter. With some larger fish, they may jump and you will have to do a quick button sequence to keep the fish on. There isn’t much variation between species which is a little disappointing since there are about 151 species to catch in the game.
The town is full of superstitious people and every now and then there is a specific fish they are afraid of. At the town watering hole, you can learn all about this fish and the accompanying horror stories. When you find these behemoths you will have a fun fight. Each has a different way of “battling” these big fish like removing massive harpoons from a whale. This is definitely a unique version of fishing and I quite enjoyed these boss battles.
So you’ve caught all these pounds of fish. Now what? Cook them into amazing street food and gourmet dishes! You start out the game with only the basic knowledge of dishes like Fish and Chips and Steamed Fish. You can gain new dishes through mastery of known dishes, buying recipes, and talking to townsfolk about their favorite recipes. There are 60 recipes in all for you to master. All you need is the right fish that the dish requires and some shells (the in-game currency), the right Knives, and you can become the master chef of your dreams!
What I love about Moonglow Bay is that they actually put some thought into the cooking part of their game. You don’t just choose an available recipe and end up with the cooked dish after selecting your ingredients. You actually have little mini-games depending on if you need to wash, cut, boil, fry, or bake your food. These games are simple and reminded me of the long nights of playing Cooking Mama on the Wii with my wife. Thankfully to avoid the repetitiveness of these mini-games you can cook in bulk batches too.
Your other goal from starting the business you and your partner always wanted is to help put Moonglow Bay on the map. Get the town over their superstitions and help rebuild it. You can make friends with all of the townsfolk by bringing them their favorite dishes. In exchange, they will give you information about the town and the lore of the seas. You will work with the local museum by donating specimens from new species you catch. Doing this will fill out the information in your journal about what the fish is called, how and where to catch it again.
After working with the Mayor of Moonglow Bay you will get access to a town bulletin board where you can take on odd jobs for shells and see the desired dish and fish of the day for a boost in pay. The bulletin board is sadly kind of not needed. I did my required quests around it and in 9 hours, I haven’t gone back to it once. Cooking is where the money is. Money that you’ll need to invest in the local businesses. You will be able to bring back the town bar, the fish market, a library and more. These all serve a purpose to you from supplying high-quality bait to info on mythic fish.
The aesthetic of Moonglow Bay is what initially grabbed my attention. I love games that use voxel art and do it well. The entirety of Moonglow Bay is full of character. The town definitely has that quaint ocean-side town feel to it. Each biome feels unique and looks beautiful. What really gets me though is how unique some of the fish are. They have beautiful artwork done on cards when you catch them and in their journal entry but the way they are shown in voxel form is amazing to look at too and I just can’t get enough of it.
Everything about the game just feels cozy. From your tiny home and kitchen to your boat, you always feel welcome and relaxed. As you progress in the game you can upgrade your boat quite a bit. You can get a sleeper and even a full kitchen put in below deck. I love that the boat grows and looks different with each upgrade. It adds a constant reminder of your progression in the game and I always appreciate seeing these kinds of things in my games.
The soundtrack for Moonglow Bay is amazing. Of course, you could absolutely expect nothing less from the talented Lena Raine (Celeste and Chicory) who is the composer over at Bunnyhug. Each biome having their own themes really help differentiate where you are. The first boss area has this wonderful track using Tibetan Singing Bowls (or sounds like it) and it just adds to the mysticism and reverence of the place. My only issue with the sound is that catching fish and then viewing your catch interrupt a lot of the soundtrack and it can be rare to just sit and listen to the amazing music. I would love a jukebox I could have on the boat to just listen to music uninterrupted.
While this has been a rather glowing review so far. Moonglow Bay is not without fault. Traversing the town can sometimes be very clunky when needing to change elevations. Even if it’s just a slight step up onto some grass from the sand. Throwing your net out to catch sand fleas and go a little into the water requires you to cancel and throw again because the net gets stuck. This wouldn’t be a huge issue if they didn’t place the sand fleas right at the ledge of the beach and water. I avoid this one specific area because of this. It can also get caught on the side of the boat sometimes and can lose a haul of fish to correct.
The keyboard controls are atrocious. Things to close menus or save just don’t jive with what we all expect (even when done on the controller). a couple of the mini-games when cooking are nearly impossible barring severe carpal tunnel damage when played with the keyboard. Even though the devs are listening and plan to update this (hopefully with remapping!) I highly recommend you only play with a gamepad.
Lastly, the fishing feels too repetitive. You will spend so much time fishing and with about 150 species you would think there would be some variation in their fights and there just isn’t much change from species to species. For the most part, I am able to hook a fish and if I act quickly I can land the fish in two hard tugs on the line. It’s disappointing when I can land larger fish so easily. I would have loved more variation with landing fish. There is so much mentioned about why each pole is needed for different fish but then the fights often just feel the same and I find I don’t change poles unless I need to for a specific fish.
Moonglow Bay is a beautiful and charming game. It is such a great entry into the town/life sim genre and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. There is a lot to do and plenty to keep you busy. Though it seems at first that there isn’t much progression the world begins to open up quite a bit to you after the first few hours. Despite the few flaws it has I found myself coming back to Moonglow Bay nightly as a way to unwind and end my night. If you like the idea of catching and cooking fish and spending your time sailing the seas then definitely check this game out. Now off to relax and catch some sunfish! Happy fishing to you.
*Moonglow Bay was provided to me by BunnyHug for review*
Moonglow Bay is a relaxing and beautiful fishing game. While a little repetitive it is engrossing that you’re able to forgive the rough edges of this gem.