Finding Paradise is a game I’ve been looking forward to for years and finally released a few days ago. Don’t know what Finding Paradise is? Then allow me to help you out.
Finding Paradise is an indie adventure game by Kan Gao of Freebird Games. This game is a little special as it is actually a sequel to the title To the Moon. Maybe that helps ring some bells, as it is often talked about as THE game to make you cry your eyes out. It’s also linked to Sigmund Holiday Minisodes and A Bird Story. So of course the question is: do you need to play the prior titles before you can play this one? Eh, not really. While you might miss a reference or two, it functions as its own standalone game. You should still play To the Moon. Not necessarily before or after. Just in general.
Finding Paradise is about two doctors, Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts, who have the job of fulfilling someone’s last wish before they die. Unfortunately it is not “real” as it only happens in the patient’s mind. The company the doctors work for, Sigmund Corp., possesses a technology to weave artificial memories into a patient so they may experience the feelings they desire as they draw their final breath. Ultimately they die happily, having achieved the one thing they never got the chance to do. To perform this procedure, the doctors must traverse their patient’s memories and witness their lives, as well as why the person was unable to fulfill their desire.
While this is a standalone title, comparisons with To the Moon will be unavoidable as it is one of my favorite games of all time and comparisons are probably the reason most of you are reading. So let’s go!
While you play as the doctors, the tale is not really about them. It is about the patient and learning about his life. In Finding Paradise, Eva and Neil’s patient is a man named Colin Reeds, a retired pilot. His wife and son are both against the procedure, but Colin requests the services of Sigmund Corp. anyway. Colin loves his life and his family and his career, yet he still cannot shake the feeling of dissatisfaction now that he is facing the end. So the doctors travel into Colin’s memories to unravel the secrets and mysteries that surround the life of this dying man. Strange things happen when the doctors are unable to follow Colin’s timeline chronologically and find mysterious figures threading in and out of his life. They quickly realize this case will not be just another day on the job.
Before you ask, yes. To the Moon made me cry like a bitch. To be fair, it is one of the few games (and form of media in general) that could elicit tears from me. While it has some sad moments, Finding Paradise did not make me cry. Not that it needed to. While still an emotional game, it told a very different story. It was still thought-provoking, heartwarming, and hilarious… but indisputably different. A game doesn’t need to make me cry to strike a chord with me, nor does it detract from the game’s meaning. For me, the tale was far more relatable than To the Moon and felt very personal. It may not be as emotionally devastating, but overall it was still poignant, brilliant, and most of all memorable.
And on a sillier note, while Eva and Neil are not the main part of the story, they still remain great characters. They are without a doubt one of my favorite fictional duos. They argue back and forth all the time and both have very different personalities. But they also care about their jobs albeit in different ways. Their comedic chemistry in Finding Paradise is even stronger than before as I found myself laughing at their ridiculousness much more often. A+
As the doctors, your job is to explore Colin’s memories and find memory links. That is objects, places, or people that hold emotional significance for the patient. Finding these things help you jump from one memory to the next, until you get to their earliest memory. That way the patient’s current desire may be transferred to their childhood selves and ensures the success of accomplishing the wish.
Looking around for the memory links is not a boring task. Rather it is sort of a delightful romp. You take your time and explore the world as Colin remembers it, while Neil and Eva banter back and forth. While not different gameplay from To the Moon, it was rather nostalgic and still very enjoyable as it is another way to gain insight into the person. Wondering why certain objects or people are important to them is pleasant to think about as you slowly connect the dots of the person’s story.
Flip puzzles have also been swapped out for a sort of… tic-tac-toe thing? You match stuff up vertically or horizontally to move onto the next memory. I’m neutral on the mini-game, as I preferred the flip puzzles, but it no longer gives an ideal amount of moves to complete the puzzle in, which makes me feel a little better about myself if I take an exceptionally long time to figure it out.
Towards the end of the game there are a bunch of varied gameplay segments that I thought were all super awesome. I’ll keep it vague to avoid spoilers, but it definitely does a better of changing up the pace of things than To the Moon did. I was afraid of failure and determined to succeed even if the odds were stacked against me. It’s cool, okay. Just take my word for it. But it might’ve been better if these gameplay shift moments were spaced a little further apart to break up the memory link segments and overall be a little more engaging.
The music is fantastic. I own the music for To the Moon and Bird Story (the precursor to this game). And I will buy the Finding Paradise OST as soon as it is available on Steam. And I almost never buy video games OSTs. A few of the songs were in To the Moon but most of this soundtrack is brand new and varies from uplifting to haunting. The title screen music alone was enough to move me. And similar to To the Moon, Laura Shigihara once again contributes a song to a very poignant moment in the game. If you missed our interview with Laura you can find it here. Boy, I’m really into shameless self-promotion. But I digress. The music is incredible and perfect for each scene. Especially anything that has piano in it. Consider buying the soundtrack along with the game.
For those of you familiar with To the Moon the obvious question that I’ve danced around is: “Is the game as good as To the Moon?” Well, I think that might be a matter of personal preference. As I’ve stated, it has a lot of similar elements. It has fantastic music and if you can walk away without feeling something or taking away something unique, then you are probably a robot. If I have to pick, then yes I’d say I prefer To the Moon. But I would not trade away the experience Finding Paradise gave me. It’s not hard to see that the story was meaningful to Kan Gao. And that’s the best way to make a story. Because if it’s meaningful to one person, then it will undoubtedly be meaningful to others.
Finally some of you might be turned off to the To the Moon series because they are RPG Maker games.Do not judged it by the engine. Finding Paradise is not a lazily made game. I don’t actually know where a lot of the hatred for RPG Maker games comes from. I’ve said it before for other games I’ve reviewed and I’ll say it again. Play the game for a bit before you write it off as an unoriginal indie title. Finding Paradise is something truly special and deserves a fair chance just as To the Moon does.
After finishing Finding Paradise, I find myself craving even more titles in the series. And man those cliffhangers with Dr. Watts being all sketchy don’t help! For those who played and enjoyed To the Moon, Finding Paradise will not disappoint you.