Title: If Found...
Release Date: May 19, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Genre: Visual Novel
Some visual novels are less interactive than others, but that never really weighs on the importance of the story being told. With the Dreamfeel developed visual novel If Found…, interaction is everything as you make your way through the narrative. However, it’s that narrative that will either lose the player completely or give them something that they relate to in more ways than one.
If Found tells the story of Kasio as she makes her way through space in hopes of saving the planet from impending doom from a black hole. Sure, this is some pretty heavy news to lay on the player right from the start, but it isn’t exactly what the story focuses on. Instead, we travel back through Kasio’s life to relive events between her family, friends, and struggles with finding where she belongs.
The game is set in Ireland in 1993, and you’ll know this right away as the writers don’t shy away from using native slang and terms. Luckily, they were kind enough to include a glossary of terms to help the reader out. For the most part, the story is delivered as if it were written in a diary, and we get to learn more about Kasio’s thoughts and relationships in her own words.
The interactive nature of the story has players erasing the world that Kasio remembers. Page by page, you erase portions of her past while witnessing various events. It’s unclear from the beginning of the story what exactly the narrative wants to focus on since the opening is so intense. However, it’s soon revealed that Kasio wants to be in the space program, her mom doesn’t support her, and so she leaves.
The opening moments of the story are very punk rock in the sense that Kasio pretty much leaves home and finds herself living on a friend’s couch. This is perhaps the most I could personally relate to the story as it featured moments of band performances, friend hangouts, and not fitting in, even with likeminded individuals. It really captures these scenes in the sense that not understanding yourself can cause you to push away the ones you love.
To be honest, there are some parts of If Found that I couldn’t relate to as I’m probably not the target audience for this game. However, it led me to have a better understanding of how other people dealt with their own hurdles in life, using events that any adolescent kid could understand. Furthermore, the era that this game takes place in plays a role in the closed-off nature of the characters and how much they are allowed to express themselves.
I don’t know if I liked Kasio nearing the last act of the story. Her actions were much too impulsive, and she kept flip-flopping on her decisions. It didn’t help that the conclusion felt rushed as there were some massive plot points that wrapped up in a few lines, but Kasio pretty much caves after she finds herself in a helpless situation.
The game does offer a well-rounded conclusion that wraps everything up. However, this is meant to be played through multiple times, which isn’t thoroughly explained the first time you encounter the feature. Still, I think the nature of Kasio’s situation warrants her a few nonsensible actions.
If Found features some beautiful background and character designs, the world is ever-changing as you erase everything page by page. The game even finds a way to show animations as you erase a character several times to see their head moving or them walking away. This art design also helped express these characters and their personalities without the need of voiced dialogue.
The soundtrack is incredible, and the developers knew just went to ramp up the synth waves to produce a lasting effect on the player as they make their way through the narrative. They also knew when to remove the music altogether so that the player is more immersed in some of the more substantial scenes. I would like to add that I wish the game had an undo feature because I would sometime erase worlds on accident before I read them.
If Found has an incredible story to tell about finding your place in life with an added dose of science fiction, there are themes of acceptance and discovery, but the core of the story revolves around Kasio accepting who she is. Sure the conclusion is a little rushed, but that won’t stop you from feeling immersed in this truly beautiful game.
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