To the Moon was a turning point. It’s not like we didn’t have narrative-first games before, but back in 2011, it was a niche interest that was largely fueled by Twine projects shared across Twitter. There was no Gone Home to shake up the first-person perspective and there was no The Walking Dead from Telltale to exemplify consequence in choice.
But this weird little game had something to say. It bent RPG Maker in ways it probably wasn’t meant to be shaped to tell a story in a way not a lot of people were quite familiar with. And hot damn did it knock it out of the park. It’s not even close to an exaggeration when I say that To the Moon is one of the most affecting tales I’ve ever experienced in any medium.
Let this set up the stakes at play with Finding Paradise, the follow-up to To the Moon. It continues the story of Eva Rosalene and Neil Watts, doctors working for the Sigmund Corp. It’s a company that uses esoteric (and morally dubious?) technology to alter the memories of dying clients so they might pass on with no regrets in life.
In this case, the client is a man named Colin Reeds, bedridden and nearly braindead. His lifelong dream isn’t as clear as it was with Johnny Wyles’ lunar escapades; he wants something to change but also nothing to change at all. His life, his family, his memories should stay the same but he wants to just be…happier? It’s such a vague request that even the already exploratory procedure of going back through the client’s memories is made even more murky.
It’s hard to go much further without spoiling the game, but it is a remarkably dense journey. It pokes and pulls at parts of its potent concept that reveal cracks in the wall. A dangerous, controversial procedure, it shines a light on the question of veracity. Are true memories better than false ones? Is there really a difference once they’re in there? What does happiness even matter in a world where it can be wholly fabricated?
There is a terrific foil presented between Watts and Rosalene. Their distinct personalities come through fantastically, but so do their philosophical differences. (If you’ve played To the Moon and A Bird Story, you know what to expect, and it pays off rather well.) They’re funny and charming when they need to be and bullish and closed off when they have to be.
Finding Paradise doesn’t quite hit the emotional highs and lows of To the Moon, but it also doesn’t seem like it wanted to. It focuses instead on stewing on this odd idea of melancholy in Reeds’ life, using a tremendous premise as a way to deliver the story in a way only this form could deliver. The impact of this game might not be as immense as with Freebird’s debut six years ago, but don’t miss out on Finding Paradise.