If Found… review

If Found… is an emotional journey through the pages of Kasio’s journal which looks back at growing up in Ireland in the 90s. This is a powerful indie game, which is relatively short, but one of the most impactful narrative experiences I’ve had with video games. If Found… is full of beautiful illustrations that help visualise our trip through Kasio’s memories together with a simple and elegant interaction model that reveals the story wonderfully well.

The game is played from Kasio’s perspective and we’re there with her looking back through the pages of a journal at various memories. The main interaction is with an eraser, unveiling new elements of the story and sometimes painful memories. There are arguments with family members, but also happy times too including concerts with friends. The interactions with the screen are simple but very effective in revealing the story but also filled with emotion as Kasio tries to forget. The gameplay in If Found… is simple, you control the eraser with the controller or the mouse and simply swipe across the screen, removing the image story from above to reveal the layer below.

Kasio is interested in the stars and returns home to Achill Island which is a small town off the coast of Ireland. Kasio is back from University having moved to Dublin for further education, but she’s back for a month. Kasio’s journal is full of memories from the past, characters like parents and friends but also places. The art style of the game is very hand-drawn, ink on the page and gives you a sense like you are looking through an actual journal of a real person. It’s very emotive and realistic and is bound to move you.

The journal starts on December 3, however, we’re looking back at the last 28 days and erasing pages. It’s not entirely clear why this is happening, why we get to look through the past pages with Kasio. Is she trying to forget, or is there something else? There’s plenty of painful moments as you erase the pages of the journal, but they’re also wonderful moments too with support from friends and family.

It’s a story of a queer girl trying to find her place in the world and processing the emotions and understanding where to go next. There are two parallel narratives in the game with Cassiopeia slowly drifting towards a black hole and Kasio dealing with her own metaphorical black hole after arguments with the family. Kasio is home for a little while, but old arguments and points of conflict with the family have reared their ugly head once again with Kasio’s mother asking what are the plans after university, why she’s dressed like that and other intrusive questions which push Kasio into an emotional state.

It’s at this point in the game I found myself looking back at my own life and these conversations with family. If you knew what you were doing or where you were going in your early 20’s then congratulations. I remember having a rough idea, going to university, my whole life turned upside down with new people, new hierarchies and new directions. I always knew I had to get out of my small town and into the wider world, but once I got there I didn’t know what to do next. Now, years later I somehow made it through that confusing mess of a time… but I can’t tell you how I did it. It was a rollercoaster for sure.

If Found… has me reflect on my time and my journey, even though it’s not exactly the same story and that’s the power of this game. It managed to draw an emotional response from me. In a world where many games have you shooting, exploring, jumping or puzzling, this game had me simply erasing. However, that simply interaction together with the narrative was enough to draw a very powerful emotional response… One which I won’t be forgetting for a long time to come.

The game isn’t a long one, roughly 2 hours from start to finish, but it’s unique, touching and definitely a memorable experience. It is a visual novel style game where the interactions are slow and simple, so if you’re used to action games then you’ll have to prepare yourself for the slower pace and the different style of gameplay. Annapurna Interactive tend to be deliberate with their publishing which includes other great games such as I Am Dead, Sayonara Wild Hearts, Florence and Kentucky Route Zero. If Found… is a worthy contender among these great games.

The reason for the erasing is revealed just before the end of the story and the dual narratives of Kasio, plus the mysterious black hole joins up together in a very satisfying ending that I won’t spoil… it’s something to be experienced for yourself. I’d recommend If Found… It’s one of 2020s most unique and touching stories, told through the video games medium with a subtle touch.

Developer: Dreamfeel
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Platforms: PC, Mac, iOS and Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 19 May 2020