Finding Paradise (2017)
Updated: Jan 7
Developer: Freedbird Games
Finding Paradise is 2D RPG narrative-based game and sequel to To The Moon (see my review for that game here) and A Bird Story. Much like To The Moon, you play as both Dr. Eva Rosenthal and Dr. Neil Watts from Sigmund Corporation, on the job using highly advanced technology to fulfill a patient’s dying wish - in the patient's head only, of course. The patient this time is an elderly man named Colin, who is accompanied at his bedside by his wife and son. His wish is quite different and definitely less straightforward than John's was in To The Moon. I won't be spoiling To The Moon in this review, since it's quite a different story.
“To The Moon”, as a title choice, is almost immediately explained to to the player, even if the details are not. However, “Finding Paradise” definitely raised some questions for me throughout the whole game and even in the conclusion, was still a slightly vague as a title. This distinction is good, though, and adds mystery to the true meaning of this game even up until the end. Kan Gao, director of both games, stated on Freebird’s Facebook page, “To the Moon was about seeking fantasy from reality, whereas Finding Paradise is about seeking reality from fantasy. Two sides of the same coin.” It’s not immediately obvious that Finding Paradise will be different from To The Moon, as you begin the game with a similar task with a seemingly similar client. However, it’s not long before you see that the memories playing out are traversed through very differently. Finding Paradise separates itself fairly well by surprising you with a very different order of events and unique relationships.
Despite the fact that this game was released 6 years after its predecessor, the game stays true to its predecessor's gameplay and art style. There are a few places where both of these improve, which I greatly appreciate. The small puzzles you solve in between memories are still nothing particularly exciting, but can take you a little longer to work through. Certain scenes showed off a more refined and impressive art style, but still in keeping with the series of games from this developer. One small thing I really enjoy about this game is how the sprites are so alive - in a graphic style that's supposed to be less realistic, motions and responses of the characters are completely clear and feel true to life.
On the front of Freebird Game’s website tab reads the slogan, “Ruining sentimental games, one badly timed joke after another”. I find this slogan just too painfully true, unfortunately. Perhaps for some, obstructively sudden comedic timing sandwiched between emotional moment may hit the spot, but it has too often been off-putting for me. When Finding Paradise took me through an important, climatic turn and the scope of the events was suddenly completely changed, I was not prepared to suddenly endure a too-long joke interruption courtesy of Dr. Neil Watts. It totally switched the mood on me and caused me to lose my focus on the gravity of the story thread, making me annoyed with Neil (not for the first time). I truly enjoy a well-written emotional moment, even if it's heartbreaking, that lets you really sink into your own response and feelings for a moment. However, Finding Paradise, like its predecessor, rarely allows you to grasp on to these moments for long enough until the near ending of the game. Even the most well-timed jokes are smirk-worthy at best. Video game references throughout their adventure into the memories is probably the high point, though. I have to say, Neil referencing the Legend of Zelda with his summoning of a “hookshot” in this game to reach a ledge is pretty much the angle to reach me, and, okay, it did work. That was fun. I would've done the exact same thing in his situation.
The music, however, continues to do me in when it comes to Freebird Games. It was (big surprise) Laura Shigihara’s beautiful ending theme that put the bow on top of an excellent soundtrack. I can’t say for sure if the conclusion of the story itself pulled my heartstrings or if the song greatly facilitated the feelings. Despite the fact that the primary relationship of the story was difficult to relate to, I admire the fact that it was a concept new and unexplored, and not quite easy to put into words.
In playing these two games, it's become clear that there's a larger overarching story that connects this universe. I recently went back to play the Sigmund Minisodes that follow To The Moon (included in my review), which add layers to the mystery surrounding the game's protagonists. Despite some flaws with Finding Paradise, I am definitely along for the ride and looking forward to what comes next from Kan Gao. However, I do strongly hope the next chapter finally has some explanations for us about Sigmund and the scientists. I think we’ve been dragged along with these characters long enough, being given very small pieces of a larger puzzle that puts into question the very concept of Sigmund Corporation. I appreciate the build-up of it, but referencing these anomalies a couple of times per game starts to feel cruel.
I'd recommend this game if you enjoyed To The Moon - definitely play this after you've played To The Moon, the minisodes, and A Bird Story, though. You're in for a whirlwind of a story and an supple addition of interesting characters. I enjoyed the story throughout, with few exceptions, and it brought up a lot new questions throughout and post-game. I'm a sucker for narrative games with a top-tier soundtrack, so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for the next installment of what appears to be a trilogy of Freebird Games.
Finding Paradise is available for PC.
Played on: PC (Steam)
Playtime: 5 hours
How I heard about this game: Sequel to To The Moon - found it after researching Freebird Games