Title: Finding Paradise
Developer: Freebird Games
Release Date: November 18, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: X.D. Network
To The Moon is the kind of title that shows up on People’s top lists, such as “Games That Made People Cry” or “Games That Made Me Feel.” It’s the journey into a person’s mind, where you experience their memories in reverse.
How could someone design a sequel to this kind of story? The premise of this narrative involves the creation of an entire person’s life to pass through and then change. As much as I like writing, I would find this an extremely challenging task. So I was excited to get my hands on the updated switch re-release of To The Moon’s sequel, Finding Paradise. Originally developed using RPG Maker XP, Finding Paradise was released on PC in 2017. This new release is built in Unity and also brings the title to mobile devices.
Once again, Finding Paradise stars our eccentric scientist duo, Dr. Eva Rosalene, and Dr. Neil Watts, on a new job for their shady company, the Sigmund Corporation. This organization offers a wish-fulfillment service for the elderly and those about to die. Using special technology, Eva and Neil can explore, manipulate, and change clients’ memories so they can die without regrets. But, of course, it doesn’t alter their past, just what they think.
Hired by a man named Colin Reeds, our duo of professional and lackadaisical scientists find a mysterious roadblock. While in previous cases, regrets are apparent, Colin doesn’t seem to have much of an answer to what he wants. And his family is somewhat apprehensive about the whole procedure. Yet, they appeared to live a fulfilling life, so what gives?
Presented in the classical top-down RPG maker style, Finding Paradise plays mostly the same as the first game. It’s an adventure title where you do little more than walk around, talk to people and interact with objects. Not as linear as a visual novel, but the gameplay does eliminate the need for prose. Instead, you’ll get commentary on events from our fantastic scientist duo, who foil each other perfectly.
While Johnny’s story in To The Moon is, I feel, best described as ‘watching with anticipation for a car accident,’ as it consists of happy memories leading to an inevitable tragedy, Colin has a much more perplexing tale. To begin with, the reverse chronology doesn’t go to plan, leading to memory jumps all over the place. This makes the tale more mysterious as the gang tries to figure out this man’s life and regrets.
While the first game spoke to me as someone with autism and an obsession with space as a kid, I wondered how this could be matched. It turns out that the answer is ‘Yes, it can’ because Finding Paradise is about regrets as a concept and facing the existential nightmare of death.
And suppose those feel mildly horror-like to you. In that case, you’re on the money, as this time, the game has different skits and gameplay sections straight out of classical horror RPG maker games without losing the analytical tone the title started with. Like To The Moon before it, Finding Paradise has an acutely melancholic soundtrack filled with serene piano pieces that help highlight the gravity of someone’s life and can match the tonal shifts. Again, Freebird Games knows what they’re doing.
I did, however, run into a couple of issues. For one, either this game is slower, or it feels slower. Movement feels terrible, and the player often waits for other characters to finish moving before they regain control during certain sections tediously. In addition, many interactable objects don’t seem to have their hitboxes lined up, leaving me mashing the interact button in the general direction of the object to hope I find it. Finally, for extra fun, sometimes pressing the interact button causes your character to move in a random direction.
When the movement and interaction of a game, in which all you fundamentally do is move around and press the interact button, doesn’t feel good, it does sour the experience. Hopefully, this can be patched out at a later date, though.
Finding Paradise is a worthy successor to To The Moon, which re-explores the themes of death and regrets in a new light, in an easy-to-understand way. This Switch re-release offers players the chance to play the game in the most visually impressive way it’s ever been and brings it to a broader audience. When I wasn’t interrupted by strange interactables, I was immersed in its grippy and mysterious narrative.
Now all I have to do is wait for Imposter Factory. They made a third one of these! I need to play it!
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