NB: This review contains spoilers related to the game "A Bird Story". If you really want to read it, all you have to do is play it and come back here!
Once upon a time there was a child who felt alone; a child who would have liked to have a friend.
We know him well, it's Colin. We were with him when he found the injured bird, and we stayed with him until he had to let it go: for more than three years we waited to see him again.
Now Colin is old, and he is no longer alone. He has a wife and son who love him very much, and as Gao's tradition wants, he is going to die.
On December 14, 2017, on Steam, "Finding Paradise" is released. Developed and published by Freebird Games, with the now acclaimed signature of Kan Gao, the title is that actual sequel to the progenitor "To the Moon"That all fans have been waiting for since 2011. After the very short"A bird story”And an absurdly short minisode, Gao's loyal audience was hungry for feels. He found bread for his teeth.
Colin Reeds is no longer the boy we knew. Long decades have passed, of which we obviously know nothing: the POV is no longer his. We finally find the familiar clothes of Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts, completely unaware of Colin's sad childhood, which we have instead been given to know.
As it had been for "To the Moon", Eva and Neil are called to carry out a new assignment, commissioned to Sigmund Corp. They get into the car and reach a nice apartment in the city, where our patient is already unconscious. They receive a very cold greeting from his wife, Sofia, in evident disagreement with her husband's decision to express his last wish to the company.
Oh yeah, by the way, what would be the desire ?, ask the two doctors.
"We don't know," replies the wife.
So Neil and Eva decide to activate their machinery and access the most recent memory before Colin fell ill, to ask him directly what his wish was. In response, however, the elderly person expresses himself in a vague manner and stating that he has nothing relevant to change in his life, on the contrary inviting doctors to make as few changes as possible. Colin is not unhappy, just ... He wishes he had fewer regrets.
A new difficulty therefore, for our beloved doctors, who begin their journey without any starting point to look at.
It is the beginning of a new journey full of details to discover, where music is the protagonist and companion, in search of key memories to rebuild a life that, in a very small part, we have already seen. We never refer to the events of "A Bird Story": the story starts some time later, from the day when Colin meets a girl of his age with whom he makes an exclusive, intimate friendship. Little girl who, as Neil readily points out, is not his wife. It's called Faye, and in the present of man, there is no trace of it.
Trying to refrain from making obvious assumptions, Eva and Neil begin a difficult journey no longer backwards, but almost spiral, jumping from recent memories to childhood ones. As always, they are trying to find a common element that can "magically" click in Colin's life and satisfy this vague feeling of regret and melancholy that man carries with him from, apparently, always.
The characters of "Finding Paradise" are more numerous, more complex and more multifaceted than the worldmates of "To the Moon". The attention and care given to building their psychology is an aspect of the game that really makes it worthy of note, although it must be admitted that it is not a surprise: Kan Gao knows his talents and has built a career on it.
Colin Reeds is the protagonist of the story. His are the memories we go to explore throughout the game.
The playing audience is divided on the figure of this man: it is impossible not to see in him the child who grew up too quickly in "A Bird Story", but now there is much more. Colin has become a complex man, in need of love, who tends inexorably upward and struggles to accept his own imperfection. The typical person who, in a sense, "always misses something". Fortunately for us, Sigmund Corp. is there to extend his hand with his promises.
Shortly after the end of "A Bird Story" Colin meets Faye, a little girl close to home, and begins to share his wishes and small experiences with her. Thanks to her, he finds the courage to become a pilot and to continue playing the cello, a decisive factor for his meeting with his wife Fia.
Sofia "Fia" Reeds she is Colin's wife. She is introduced to the game as a cold, hateful, almost irritating character. It is only in Colin's memories that she is revealed as a loving and loyal woman, an accomplice to her husband and deeply in love with him, even after long decades of living together. The vindictive and glacial attitude appears, from a certain point forward, perfectly understandable: how would you feel if your lifelong companion asked an agency to modify his memories at the point of death, without revealing how? The same son Asher, who also appears more understanding with Eva and Neil, is not happy with their presence. However, it will be a valuable help for our doctors during the game.
Faye she is the childhood friend whom Colin met in her early memories. The two make a deep and symbiotic bond, exclusive, which pulls the strings of Colin's life up to his last moments of life and which much discusses the "spectators" Eva and Neil.
Faye is, in fact, the co-star of "Finding Paradise". Its presence affects every level of the game, both in the background of the patient's life and in the "active" one of the characters' present actions. It plays a fundamental role in the relationships between the various characters, and actively conditions the continuation of the story. The mystery that hovers around her presence and all the oddities that concern her unfold in front of a now obvious conclusion, which Eva and Neil discover in an advanced stage of the game: Faye is evidently an imaginary friend that Colin created to survive loneliness; and to which he involuntarily clung forcefully throughout his life, even after saying goodbye. It is evident to those who played "A Bird Story" the metaphorical recovery of the lost bird in the winged figure of Faye.
The doctor deserves a separate mention Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts, who are more adorable, comic and close-knit than ever. Made even more united by the experience in To the Moon, their relationship also deepens and becomes more personal.
Finally, after so much curiosity (and a frantic ship from someone who is certainly not the author of this review), something is visible on the horizon. Maybe their romantic interest has become canonical?
Maybe we got answers on the oddities of the relationship between the two?
But do we finally have elements to predict what will happen to the couple in the next chapters of the game?
Spoiler per Tia
Of course not. What is it, did you think you could get joy? But let's not joke.
What we get are other questions. And these are somewhat disturbing questions.
Spoiler per Titti
What's wrong with Neil? What tablets do you take? Is he sick, suffering, or perhaps in substance withdrawal? What are you doing with Sigmund's machinery? What's in his office? Why does it take Faye's interface in the end? Or rather, is it only the interface that serves them or more… software? What do you ask your colleagues? What the hell is going to happen in the next few titles? How creepy are Minisodes? How adorable is Rudog?
"Finding Paradise" is an interactive narrative experience with an isometric view, based exclusively on dialogues and history, exactly as it was for the first chapter of the saga "To the Moon". The actual playful, adventure, exploration or combat elements are so minimal that they are almost parodic. The puzzles are, as well as those of "To the Moon", substantially impossible to miss; the fights (for the first time on a couple of occasions, towards the end of the game), are deliberately ironic and without an effective influence on the plot. As was said for the previous chapters, "Finding Paradise" is in fact a new, more immersive way of experiencing a story. It is a narrative, it does not pretend to be anything else, and it works very well only with this solitary, noble purpose.
It is developed with the RPG Maker graphics engine, and the input modes remain the directional arrows and the space bar or mouse.
The game is currently available for purchase on Steam, along with the previous chapters of the saga, and is available for Windows, macOS, Linux and iOS and Android mobile devices.
The soundtrack of "Finding Paradise" is, as well as that of "To the Moon" and "A Bird Story", an element curated and studied in detail by the author of the game himself, who composes most of the traces. It also includes a piece by Laura Shigihara, who once again masterfully lent herself to the task, entitled “Wish my life away".
The music is instrumental, mainly played on the piano, and is divided into two specific genres: those in the background to the life of Colin and Faye, which maintain a tone similar to that of an infant lullaby; and those that accompany Colin and Fia's adult life, which are "explicit" music played by the characters themselves. In addition to the wonderful "song of the stairs", we also remember the orchestral song made by Sofia and her fellow musicians.
Other sound elements are only those related to some specific objects and scenes, since the dubbing is, once again, absent.
Up to To the Moon?
The recurring consideration regarding "Finding Paradise" that the game cannot touch the emotional and ancestral strings of one's partner "To the Moon" is recurrent.
In a sense, it's true. "Finding Paradise" does not elicit the same painful effect that the tragic life of Johnny Wyles has sown in the hearts of the public. But it is also true that this was not its purpose. Indeed, remember that although its release was scheduled for the summer of 2017, "Finding Paradise" was published late for the sole purpose of investigating some elements, to "better differentiate it from 'To the Moon'", as stated by Gao himself .
"Finding Paradise" is an immensely more complex and multifaceted work, which has higher and also, in a certain sense, ethical objectives. He shuns the pure and powerful tragedy d of Johnny and River to propose more subtle ideas and different paths of interpretation. Faye and Fia leave us divided, uncertain, suffering. Eva and Neil no longer make us laugh, in fact, now they worry us. Colin is not a commendable man, no, he is not at all: but he is a real human being. And above all, the element that most of all connects the dots of this story is disconcerting: but in the end, does Sigmund Corp. really serve? Is the service it offers right? Do we want to ask Colin's wife and son?
Before talking about the future of the Kan Gao saga, it is good to keep in high consideration the Minisodes that have been published by Freebird Games between "To the Moon" and "A Bird Story" and above all the one released following the publication of "Finding Paradise ". In spite of the appearances and their derisory duration, they make very important developments to the plot and are necessary to be able to follow the theories that are currently circulating on the sequel to "Finding Paradise", of which today we only have a title and a trailer.
But we will talk about this in the next review!😉