The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories; A Bloody, Gruesome, yet Sweet Puzzle-Adventure Game
Platform : PC
Release Date : 11th October 2018
Publisher : Arc System Works
Developer : White Owls Inc
This game was provided for review by the developer
WARNING : This review contains discussion on self-harm and mutilation
This is a bloody, gruesome and yet sweet puzzle game which tells the story of Jackie as she takes a romantic camping trip with her friend Emily on the mysterious Memoria Island. Emily goes missing during the course of this trip and Jackie (or J.J.) sets out to find her. She realises that she is immortal after being struck by lightening. Horrendously burnt she keeps regenerating and continues her search for her friend. This introduces The Missing’s core mechanics, J.J. cannot die but she can be mutilated in various ways. In order to progress through the games puzzles she must allow herself to be brutally maimed, crushed and sliced in multiple ways.
It’s a fairly disturbing game mechanic which is juxtaposed with an altruistic narrative which explores themes of teen sexuality and personal identity with surprising tenderness. As a puzzle platformer, it provides a solid challenge and tests your sense of timing as you navigate through an ever challenging landscape. The controls feel weighty, it’s not immediately responsive but this plays to the games advantage. The player feels like there is a real physicality to J.J’s presence, as J.J moves between standing upright, crouching and lying prone it takes time as the character cycles through the animations for each one. This realism helps you believe that you are controlling a real human being which again reinforces the narrative themes as well as a sense of horror when you must willfully dismember yourself to progress through the game.
Early in the game you begin to get a hint of how these puzzles operate. Surviving a fall which would otherwise kill another character, you land with a sickening crunch. As you rise you notice that J.J. stands with a broken neck leaving you staggering. If J.J. loses a leg, you will continue forward by hopping and eventually toppling forward and if she loses her arms, you will be unable to lift any items. This grotesque mechanic is used to great advantage when you need to reach inaccessible areas. One one occasion I decapitated J.J.’s head using an over hanging buzz saw. I then controlled the head and rolled it to an crevice which seemed impossible to reach. It is possible to ‘die’ due to certain high impact events, but this generally resets the current room puzzle.
The puzzles are rarely obvious and are tremendously satisfying to piece together. As the player progresses, the key milestones reached are signalled by communication through text messages on J.J’s mobile phone. These come from J.J’s plushy toy which has come to life, these messages begin to bring the protagonists backstory to life. The creator of this game Hidetaka Suehiro – better known to his fans as “Swery” has taken the darkest struggles encountered by many people and twisted them into an accessible and intense atmospheric game. There’s some wonderful classic Americana backgrounds present as you tirelessly search for your friend, including a diner and a bowling arena. There’s influences present from Toy Story to Super Meat Boy present and it all meshes together in a wonderful synthesis.
I highly recommend this atmospheric and gorgeously presented puzzle adventure game, it affected me deeply and I found it a captivating and compulsive experience.
Find it on Steam