Moonglow Bay – PS5 Review 1

From Gateshead based boutique developer Bunnyhug and co-located publisher Coatsink we have Moonglow Bay. Originally released on PC and Xbox in 2021, it’s made the leap to PlayStation. Was it worth the wait? For the most part yes, but with a few caveats. Incidentally, Bunnyhug is Sasketchawan slang for a hoodie. Entirely irrelevant to this review, but still interesting.

Based in a Canadian seaside town, courtesy of co-developer Zach Soares being French-Canadian we guess, you start out choosing a pronoun, an avatar and a partner. We went with our actual first name to start with before we realised the implications. At any rate, your surname is always Fisher and your adult daughter is called River. After a while we realised we could change our first name at least so went with a lame callout to a bad eighties pop duo instead.

You have a fun tutorial in which the fishing mechanic is introduced and also where you are depicted having happy fun times with your partner. Step forward to the present day and your jaded old lag of a character has returned to Moonglow Bay, their partner’s hometown. Their dream was always to open a fishy street food stall, so upon reaching what we imagine is retirement, your character eschews the high-powered excitement of being an accountant to instead do this.

Only Moonglow Bay is somewhat run down after years of neglect and a declining fishing industry. It’s up to you to revive the fortunes of the town, as well as unravelling the mystery of quite why the fishing trade ended so abruptly in the town. Bunnyhug have very much mapped out the story here for you, it’s up to you to work within its confines.

There may be a storyline here, but the focus is very much on fishing from either the shoreline or your trawler, the Two Cats. Then once you’ve caught them, cook up your catch to make tasty treats for the populace of the town to buy. This in turn will allow you to upgrade your boat as well as buy ingredients for the more intricate dishes.

You’ll start out cooking basic items like fishcakes that have the added advantage of having zero upfront costs, plus once you’ve mastered cooking respective dishes you’ll be able to automatically cook items with no intervention required. These are also required for gifting to townspeople, lower grade items can be sold but for less money.

The cooking itself is made up of a mixture of QTE type events and timing based minigames. For example, fishcakes comprise a wash, chop, boil, fry and bake phase. Washing is you following a bar that shifts left to right, chopping is timing based, boiling is similar to washing but on a circular ring, frying is timing based too and baking is a concentric ring expanding outwards that you have to place in the correct zone.

Later more complicated dishes also add filleting to the repertoire, as well as requiring a cleaver. These are both gated by storyline events at any rate. Many dishes require you to become proficient with other dishes as well as have the prerequisite fish for the dish in question. To reach the novice level, you need to have cooked three perfect dishes with zero mistakes, intermediate six times and advanced nine times. This is fine when you’ve got easy dishes with three or four steps, but the more complex dishes can be as many as a dozen distinct steps.

Thankfully not all are massively complicated, but if you mess up just one step, you automatically drop to a two-star dish. If you’re cooking with one of the harder to find fish, you can cheese it and abort the process to begin anew. It’s a bit of a cheap get out, but saves having to go to a specific spot at the right time of day to catch said fish.

Fishing is varied with initially only rod and line fishing available. You’ll gain the ability to also fish with a net, catch lobster with pots and line with multiple hooks too. Some fish can only be caught with specific rods and reel types as well as high or low grade bait. The hundred and fifty one fish species that can be caught are found across five distinct biomes, three of which are available to you at the outset. So no jumping ahead becoming a Rick Stein seafood gourmand ahead of time.

Each of the fish is ghosted out in the in-game fishipedia until you’ve caught it the first time, and then only with a placeholder or nickname. To wit, one fish we found in icy waters initially penned Dave. Not his actual species name of cause, but it still fits. They are only given their correct name upon being handed in to Marina at the aquarium which acts a bit like the museum in Animal Crossing, only without the nightowl curator. Many of the fish have real world analogues, but they also lapse into daftness as this is a game after all. There’s fish that look like famous detectives or musical instruments for example.

In addition to the charming voxel based graphics, the music is rather chilled out. Composed by Lena Raine, who also did the music for Chicory, it’s lovely but not quite as memorable as the BAFTA award winning paint-em-up. Whereas we found the music there was incredibly evocative, here it is much more in the background. There’s occasional dramatic changes, but it’s far less acutely felt here.

As you may have gathered, we really quite like Moonglow Bay. It’s not all smooth sailing though. Before we’d started playing properly, we had an update from the PR informing us that the version initially released on PS5 was old and the newest update hadn’t pushed through correctly. No mither, we played once v1.002.000 had propagated to us.

Only this is where our problems began. We’re not quite sure what happened but this build needs revision too, but three weeks later we still don’t have it. Firstly we had a game freeze and crash. Then we noticed that the vermin that hang around our bins had a tendency to float in the air. Or NPCs became incredibly scarce, especially the mayor who we had a specific task to finish.

Most damningly, the game actually crashed upon saving. Thankfully not corrupting the game save or we’d have abandoned Moonglow Bay altogether until a more stable build arrived. We lost a lot of progress regardless, the problem being that the game only automatically saves when you go to bed in-game. It’s entirely possible, as we found out, to play for several hours, go to save and have the game lock up completely as you do so. Perhaps make autosave happen when you leave one building for another. Or finish a storyline chapter. We actually had the game mess up on saving after we’d finished the main storyline, so we had to roll the end credits twice.

As well as having to replay large chunks, we found our cooking progress went out of the window too. All very galling. Let’s just say our in-game save reckons twenty-nine hours played, but our PS5 reckons at least ten hours more. Yeah. Not great.

There’s minor issues that aren’t quite as gamebreaking admittedly, but they’re oddities all the same. If you’ve caught a fish via the linefishing method, the fish model persists if you catch any more using that or a rod and line. So you can have nested fish models showing up. It resets when you reload from a save.

Other things that are odd but not game breaking relate to cooking. If you’re chopping anything, even if its herbs, the tooltip has a fish icon. Or one late game dish that is mackerel based, that doesn’t require any mackerel as a pre-requisite for cooking it, despite their being abundant. It’s odd.

Oddest of all, fish and chips is fundamentally different than the recipe here might suggest. To give any discerning fish and chips fan; i.e. a Brit; potatoes that are merely boiled and pass them off as chips and they’ll hand them back to you and ask for their chips to be done properly. Chopped and boiled they ain’t. To miss out frying them is daft at best.

Once you get into the endgame and have fully renovated the town, you’ll likely be richer than Croesus, so cooking for cash becomes completely secondary other than for completion’s sake. Unlike in say, Animal Crossing, you can’t put excess cash into a savings account. This isn’t a problem as such, but while you need cash, if your boat is damaged beyond repair you’ll lose 10% of your money for the privilege of being towed home. This isn’t an issue later on, but when you’re scrimping and saving, it’s a big chunk of change to lose.

The game saving crashes are the biggest problem here, everything else is minor. Ten hours lost is a damning indictment and has cost Moonglow Bay a point from its score.

In conclusion, Moonglow Bay is a wonderfully sedate fishing game with cooking elements. The storyline carries you along in its bow wave, but hits choppy waters when you try to save. Crashing upon saving isn’t a good look. It’s only the fact we didn’t have any save files corrupt on us that meant we came back to play some more. Never mind that isn’t how you make fish and chips. Seriously.

Moonglow Bay
8 Overall
+ So chilled out its almost horizontal
+ Fishing is fun and cooking is engaging
+ Lovely music and graphical style
- Crashing upon saving really isn’t a good look, plus other minor bugs persist
- Money becomes irrelevant once you’ve renovated the town
- That’s not how you make fish and chips. You fry the potatoes!
Moonglow Bay is a lovely relaxing timesink of a game. It’s just a shame that it is bedevilled by bugs of varying degrees of severity. Despite everything we recommend you persevere with it and hope for patches down the line.

About Ian

Ian likes his games weird. He loves his Vita even if Sony don't anymore. He joined the PS4 party relatively late, but has been in since day one on PS5.

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