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Moonglow Bay Switch review - old feelings, new friends, and fish

Moonglow Bay is finally coming to Switch, a console it suits almost perfectly, but it’s not all plain sailing in this quaint experience.

Screenshot for Moonglow Bay Switch review with the main character on a boat with their partner and dog

Our Verdict

While the fishing core of Moonglow Bay might be a little lackluster, and exploration is underwhelming in places, there’s still a good time to be had with this cozy narrative-driven experience that touches on grief, loss, and new beginnings in a way that is almost certain to make your heart stir.

The term ‘cozy game’ is thrown around a lot these days, but it’s quite fitting for Moonglow Bay. It’s aesthetically charming, with a vivid voxel world full of characters who are always eager to see you. The mechanics aren’t a struggle to wrap your head around, and the pacing moseys along like a string of baby ducks waddling behind their mother. For the most part, this game is like a nice warm blanket and a bedtime story. However, that’s only for the most part.

For a little context, Moonglow Bay is a game by indie developer Bunnyhug that first arrived on PC back in 2021 with a little help from publisher Coatsink. Three years later, we’ve finally got the Switch port, which only feels natural, with the console the home of so many popular cozy slice-of-life titles like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Summer in Mara, and others. So, what exactly do you do in Moonglow Bay?

Let’s start with the story. After picking your character from a selection of four designs, your partner character, and your respective pronouns, you jump into the inciting incident. Having moved from Ontario to Moonglow Bay to live your partner’s dream of fishing for a living, they go missing, presumed dead, and you’re left alone with Muffin the dog. Yes, I know it’s a pretty bleak opening for something I’ve already described as a cozy game, but stick with me here. Years after the accident, your adult daughter turns up to try and help you start your life again while also aiming to assist you in rebuilding the Moonglow Bay community that seemingly went to pot after your partner’s disappearance and rumors of sea beasts scared away the fishing community.

With the beginning out of the way, the narrative gets much more heartwarming, thanks to your little voxel character doing their level best to aid the good people of the Bay. With Muffin and your daughter in toe, you get clues about what really could have happened to your missing love while gathering new information on local aquatic species and the world beyond Moonglow Bay. All this while you donate fish to the local aquarium and raise restoration funds for local institutions, like the Cozy Club, and library, to try and return the community to its former glory. It’s the dictionary definition of quaint, with the occasional moment that tugs on your heartstrings like a towboat pulling along a massive seafaring vessel.

Screenshot for Moonglow Bay Switch review with the player and daughter talking to a kid on the beach

Before moving on, I have to praise the developers for making the player character an old person. Why? Well, because not many games opt to do that. Most developers are seemingly aware that people want to project themselves onto in-game characters, so we often see player characters as youngsters, or at least those too young to experience a mid-life crisis. Moonglow Bay takes a risk by putting you in the shoes of someone who is more world-weary having dealt with an incredible loss, and while it makes it harder to project yourself onto them, it leads to a narrative experience that, somewhat ironically, feels fresh and different.

So, let’s talk about fishing, the core of the Moonglow Bay experience. In my opinion, fishing in this game is too easy. I know, I know, not everything has to be mind-numbingly difficult, especially in a game like this, but still, the fishing mechanic doesn’t really feel rewarding outside of the fact you get some more fish to cook for the townspeople. Worse still, the secondary technique of throwing a net to catch a fish is even easier and more efficient, making using the rod often annoyingly unnecessary.

This might be a controversial opinion, but I think fishing mechanics in games should be at least a little challenging, even more so if they take center stage. I don’t mean annoyingly hard, but they should offer some sort of challenge. The best example that comes to mind is Stardew Valley. Fishing in Stardew is hard, but as you get better, it gets easier. That’s how skills work in real life. In Moonglow Bay, fishing starts and stays pretty easy outside of the occasional late-game challenge.

Screenshot for Moonglow Bay Switch review with the main character standing on the beach

You might not think it’s too easy following the first fishing tutorial, but after the second one, where you learn how to pull at the fishing line with gusto, known in-game as ‘striking’, it can be a case of just repeatedly casting your road and pulling back towards yourself over and over again. Even if there are over 100 fish to catch to fill out your journal and the aquarium, plus four different rods to try out, the tedium of fishing put me off wanting to catch them all while playing along with the main story.

Fortunately, cooking offers a bit more of a challenge, especially if you’re making a meal that requires boiling, frying, baking, or slicing, each of which has its own little minigame. Considering you’re going to make most of the money needed to fix up the dilapidated Moonglow Bay area by cooking meals, it’s a relief it’s not as monotonous as fishing can be. You earn more recipes as you complete quests for the people of the Bay and it gives the game a further sense of progression outside of the main story.

While angling might not be the most entertaining, the sailing experience occasionally makes up for it. Some of my favorite moments playing Moonglow Bay came out on the open sea, hunting for rare fish in my old boat. You get the boat pretty early in the game, and you need to make use of it to progress through the story. The little vessel handles surprisingly well, breaking waves in forgotten waters as you try to uncover the truth surrounding the rumors of frightening sea creatures just a short distance from your seaside community.

Screenshot for Moonglow Bay Switch review showing the in-game aquarium

Outside of cooking, sailing, taking photos, and fishing, there is little to do besides some fetch quests for the locals and, weirdly enough, some quasi-boss battles. I don’t want to ruin too much, as it made it all the better that these bosses came as a surprise to me, but in those moments the game pushes the boat out and actually tests you. Sure, it’s hardly like a Dark Souls boss, and, unsurprisingly, you’re not trying to kill anything here, but these moments act as bookends to each part of the game and push you to explore all the corners of the map.

So, we’ve talked about the mechanics of Moonglow Bay a little, but let’s get into the world. The area of Moonglow Bay itself isn’t massive but it feels like a solid representation of a little seaside community. As you raise funds and put them back into the community, the fledgling town starts to come alive again, with more characters appearing from out of the woodwork every now and then. It’s a nice place to be, full of nice people. I quite fancy living there myself.

However, once you fix up your boat and get outside of Moonglow Bay, things get weirdly desolate. My first trip was to the arctic wastes of Frosted Skates, which seemed like an ideal location for exploration. It’s not. It’s basically just snow. A big island full of snow, and not a whole lot else. There’s an ice fishing spot, which is cool, but outside of that, it’s just snow. So, I got back on my boat and went home.

Screenshot for Moonglow Bay Switch review showing the desolate snowy location

One of the problems I have with Moonglow Bay is that you can’t dock or fish anywhere you like. You need to find either a dock to tie your anchor to or fish under a fishing sign indicating there’s something in the water. It’s weirdly restrictive, and the docking problem is the more annoying of the two, as it makes many of the islands you happen upon inaccessible. It also means that you expect something interesting when you find somewhere to dock, and as my time in Frosted Skates proved, that isn’t always the case. I just wish that there was a little more freedom to explore.

There’s something I haven’t mentioned yet that brings Moonglow Bay a ton of charm. While the world is all voxel, there are illustrations throughout for the main characters and supporting cast, and these are just beautifully done. While the voxel design works well and has its own appeal, I’d love to see a Moonglow Bay sequel that leaves the squares behind in favor of the lovely visual style of the illustrations. Despite my issues with the game, these visuals make me excited to see what Bunnyhug has up its sleeve in the future.

Screenshot for Moonglow Bay Switch review showing the illustration for going to bed

With some complaints about bugs and glitches when Moonglow Bay first arrived on PC, it’s nice to see that the Switch version is pretty well optimized. There’s the occasional moment of visual stuttering and a weird sort of glitchy screen that occasionally pops up just after you go to bed and the display fades to black, but outside of that, nothing affects the core gameplay experience. The control scheme is well thought out, too, though a couple of the cooking minigames can be a little tricky if you’re not incredibly precise with your button and analog stick inputs.

All in all, Moonglow Bay is an enjoyable experience for anyone looking to spend a few hours wrapped up in a seaborne slice-of-life drama. The fishing is a disappointment, especially considering how much time you spend in the Bay angling on the clear blue waters. Still, cooking, sailing, and the occasional boss battle make things a little more engaging. If you’re a fan of Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, or the non-scary bits of Dredge, there’s definitely something to enjoy here, even if the game has some lessons to learn on how to really real you into the life of a fisherperson. You can also pet Muffin the dog. Unlike fishing, that never gets old.

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There you have it, our review of Moonglow Bay for Nintendo Switch. While you’re here, be sure to check out our thoughts on other new arrivals on Switch and mobile with our Botany Manor review, Princess Peach: Showtime! review, and Wildfrost review. Or, if you’re after more angling, see our picks for the best fishing games.