To the Moon is built on the RPG Maker XP engine, which is used to create 16-bit 2D role-playing games, in the style of Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. However, unlike a typical RPG, To the Moon has no battle system (aside from a joke battle near the beginning), inventory system or party system. The game’s focus, being a more story-driven game, is around puzzle solving, interpreting information from the subject Johnny’s life, and finding ways to get deeper into his memories.
Gameplay is primarily about exploring Johnny’s memories to find significant objects and collect energy from them to strengthen the memory and connect to a more distant one, from Johnny’s old age leading back to his childhood. Occasionally, the player will have to explore Johnny’s house and the surrounding area for certain clues, if they cannot gather enough energy from a certain memory, or don’t know how to proceed to a further one.
Once the items are all gathered and the player has seen all the memories, they can connect certain objects that exist across two different memories to move freely between them. At this point, the player can begin manipulating the memories, by changing around characters, objects and events, to make Johnny believe he had achieved his dream of going to the moon.