If Found... (2020)
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year! I'm posting this review from my holiday break and I'll be discussing a game I actually played a few weeks ago. If Found... has been incredibly well received and was even nominated the "Games for Impact" award at the 2020 Game Awards. Should it have won instead of Tell Me Why? All I'll say is I had a lot of issues Tell Me Why, despite liking it overall (ask me about that game another time, I have a lot to say). Having only played 2 out of 5 of the nominated "Games for Impact", I decided I wanted to check out the rest of list; not to mention I'm always looking for the next Annapurna game to play. If Found... is an interactive fiction/visual novel coming-of-age and coming out story about a woman named Kasio who is back in her hometown. If Found... is a heartfelt, emotional ride of a story told through a creative and colorful interactive format.
It's hard to describe what genre of game If Found... is. The closest thing I can categorize it as is a visual novel, but it definitely presents itself very differently than most visual novels and it giving the player a more direct way to interact with the game. The story is mostly presented as a virtual journal with sketched drawings, and at times more detailed illustrations as well. In order to continue the story and see more, you use your cursor to "erase" the current screen or page and reveal the next one. The story alternates back and forth between two stories that at first seem to be unrelated. The first is about an astronaut on a space expedition who encounters a black hole when trying to discover a new planet. The second is the primary story, which is the story of Kasio. Kasio is a 23-year-old student who is back home in a small village in Ireland. Much of the story involves specific references to what life is like in rural Ireland, but thankfully the game does an excellent job of introducing that to players who may not be familiar with that culture. Small notes were added whenever words were used that could be unfamiliar to non-Irish players. As much as I appreciated this, I found it a little funny that they proceeded explain something as universal as "have a fit" or "grand" which are, at least to my understand as someone living in the United States, terms anyone who speaks any form of English would most likely know.
It's 1993 and Kasio is coming home from studying in Dublin for the first time in years. She's avoided coming home and is nervous about seeing her family again. Throughout the beginning, because of her name and because the story is narrated in first person, Kasio's gender isn't made explicitly clear. However, Kasio mentions her intentions to tell her mother about who she is and what her name really is before coming home. It was clear to me that her family had issues with the way she presented herself, but you only learn slowly through the context that she's trans and isn't out to her family yet. Back in her hometown, Kasio runs into and reconnects with an old friend Colum and meets his boyfriend. After a fight with her mom, Kasio storms out of her house and finds herself crashing with Colum and the band. Her days with the band at the "Big House" take her away from the stress of having to explain who she is to others and she is able to just be herself freely and feel at home with others who are also seen as outcasts. However, Kasio is still struggling to figure herself out and makes a mistakes along the way, pushing away friends and family when she feels most alone. There's powerfully happy moments of understanding and acceptance, but there's also difficult and painful moments where you're able to feel the sort of crushing pressure and fear that Kasio feels.
If Found... has a space-like synth electronic feel in its soundtrack. It stands alone on its own as an excellent album to listen to for a fun, sort of trippy sound. It works well for a story that can be taken very much at your own pace, taking time to read or erase slowly. If Found... is visually stunning, letting you take control of the background art and make unique screens with your eraser. Its handpainted style is really beautiful, making the entire game feel like a watercolor sketchbook. The gameplay for If Found... mostly consists of one mechanic - using an eraser to clear the screen. Erasing can get really repetitive especially when there's little to see and you have to erase multiple layers to get to the next bit of story. I would've liked if it gave your more of a chance to draw rather than erase, but there was only a little use of that. Occasionally you're able to move around the screen to see other parts of the story as well as place the next lines of text, which is a nice change of pace.
If Found... is an emotionally resonant story, and from my perspective (as a cis person) a beautiful and relatable journey of finding yourself, finding your family, and the messiness of being young and figuring it all out. The medium it tells its story through, although very simple, makes the story feel intimate and important, letting you feel as Kasio feels through every moment she wrote. It's also, as I've mentioned before, always really refreshing to play a game set in a culture different than my own, and getting to walk through the life of Kasio in rural Ireland was very interesting. I don't play a lot of visual novels but this was probably one of my favorite ones. It's short and at times a little confusing with the way it ties its separate stories together, but overall a unique and special game that I would definitely recommend.
If Found... is available on PC, App Store, and Nintendo Switch.
Played on: PC
Last Played: 12/14/2020
Playtime: 3 hrs