Six years ago, a game that would forever change the way I view storytelling in games was published. To The Moon was an emotional rollercoaster, with incredible narrative and musical elements. Now, the time has come for its sequel – Finding Paradise. Kan Gao and the team behind Freebird Games has returned to continue the journey of reflecting upon memories, brilliant life philosophy, and last but certainly not least; putting us in an emotional imbalance.
If you’re familiar with both of these games, you might also have encountered A Bird Story, a short narrative about a boy and a bird with broken wings. We learn that his name is Colin Reeds, and in Finding Paradise, he has come to the point where his time on earth is coming to an end. A dying old man, he becomes the patient of Dr Eva Rosalene and Dr Neil Watts, two lovable scientists who work for the Sigmund Corporation, a peculiar organization that helps dying people fulfil their lifelong wish. However, not literally. They travel through the memories of a person’s mind in order to make them think that their wish is fulfilled. The task of fulfilling Colin’s wish will turn out to be much more difficult for Dr Rosalene and Dr Watts than they first expected.
The scientists are what they call Memory Traversal Specialists – they travel through a person’s memories ranging from early childhood to late adulthood, to alter them and make them think that they have fulfilled this wish. Through altering the memories, they are able to nudge the person in the right direction, helping them to make decisions that will make their wish come true. With that said, the scientists are on a tight schedule – the patient might pass away at any moment. The clock is an important as well as a recurring symbol, as time is truly of the essence.
Colin feels that he hasn’t lived a fulfilled life, but desiring what you cannot have is perhaps something the majority of us will inevitably encounter during a lifetime. However, in Finding Paradise, one can change that. But only to a certain degree. Consequently, fulfilling one’s desire will ultimately replace another. Questioning the morality behind these patient’s decisions, the game explores both sides of the coin. What if the person you love actually desired a future that didn’t necessarily include you?
To The Moon, A Bird Story, and Finding Paradise all exist within the same universe. Therefore, some of the scenery might seem familiar if you’ve played the previous games. This is a really nice way of connecting the stories and shows good attention to detail. As I started the game, I immediately felt just how much I had missed these two scientists. The brilliant synergy between Dr Rosalene and Dr Watts are as funny and on point as in To The Moon. The dialogue is so incredibly well written, with puns and jokes filled with references to various movies and games. I absolutely love it. Finding Paradise had some hilarious moments where I sat laughing out loud. The two characters become a very nice counterweight to the heavy atmosphere of the game. As we delve deeper and deeper into the mind of Colin Reeds, the turn of events are as absurd and abrupt as the thinking mind itself.
“With the right accompaniment… anything can be a melody.” One cannot simply talk about Finding Paradise without talking about the incredible music that embraces this world. Like in all of Gao’s creations, the games are always complemented by a song that becomes a recurring theme. The song and the music compliment the characters in a really special way, and I can’t describe it further unless you have played the previous games because then you know what I’m talking about. Kan Gao’s musical creations are masterpieces that fit perfectly with the games. As a nice way of really implementing it into the universe, some of the characters (except for the scientists) each play their own instrument, and in a nice way, each theme is introduced by the characters themselves. The trailer shows you an example of the music, and when I watched this again, all the emotions I experienced when playing came rushing back to me:
In the end, I think it is also important to take from this that people never really know what they want at any given time. We all want to live a fulfilled life; but how can we define that, when each individual may want something different? The definition of a fulfilled life has faded in Finding Paradise, as we reflect on the fact that we are all dealt different cards in life. The important part is making the best out of what you have, and who you are.