Devastatingly beautiful, in every way
Works about trans people tend towards a set of themes, but the most interesting to me is remembering. At the start of Casey Plett’s 2018 novel Little Fish, Wendy, a trans sex worker living in Canada, asks her friends “how do we think about our past?” Heaven Will Be Mine is an alternative, mechanized history of the Cold War and, as I’ve written before, the AIDS epidemic. These stories remind me of mythology, “stories that don’t fit neatly into a linear history, a timeline already made by others that comes to exclude rather than expand.” Like Cassiopeia, the five star constellation and the vain queen of Ethiopia in Greek mythology. Or it’s Kasio, a girl studying the stars who crashes out of her grad program and ends up back home in Achill, Ireland, for Christmas.
In its mechanics, art, and writing, If Found… is devastatingly beautiful. Really, I just have three words: play this game. But such a wish does not a review make.
No pigeonholes here
If Found… is something like a visual novel, if you had to define it, but it also draws narrative inspiration from Twine’s branching paths. It should really be acknowledged for its disregard of generic conventions altogether, though. This game is defined by the narrative, artistic, and thematic exploration of its mechanical conceit, erasure.
Oscillating between sketchbook drawings and abstractions of space and time, erasure reveals other perspectives, or realities. The juxtaposed art styles that mark these shifts surprise and delight. Even after an hour, I found myself taken aback by sudden changes to the animation that mirror the story being told.
Let the sun in
And it is that story, more than anything, that leads me to feel that If Found… is not just a great game, but, foregoing the moniker that often comes with games made by marginalized people, important. The player erases Kasio’s journal as she revisits the events of one faithful month in 1993. But that isn’t the only story, of course. Along with shifts in the art are shifts in perspective. A part of this game is a trippy sci-fi adventure, a house show, a date that not everyone thinks is a date. The way that it all comes together elevates the craft on display by its writers.
Llaura McGee’s Ireland-based indie studio, Dreamfeel, is best known for 2014’s indie darling Curtain, a story of queer punks in an abusive relationship. Now with a full team of queer women and nonbinary devs (and music by 2 Mello), If Found… feels like the synergistic realization of all that its parts set out to do. It’s the rare game I would implore you to play without any question. The one that breaks the scale. I don’t care who you are or what games you usually like to play, play it. If not for the mechanical conceit, for the art, for the soundtrack, play it for me, because I want to share this story with so many others. That’s what a myth is, after all.
[Reviewed on iOS]
Autumn Wright is a complete genderfuck. They study rhetoric and history in Orlando, FL and write about games, sex, and other things you love on the internet. Find her latest writing (and like their selfies) at @TheAutumnWright.