The original To the Moon is still one of my favourite narrative experiences, containing an emotional and heartfelt adventure that I still recall to this day. When I heard its sequel Finding Paradise was finally being released, I didn’t just go ‘to the moon’ I went over it (see what I did there?).
In this world individuals can sign up for a service through the Sigmund Corporation (Sigcorp) that will allow experts to enter their memories when they are on deaths door. Once they are inside they will revisit their past in order to alter their memories and rewrite regrets, allowing them to pass peacefully and happily into the afterlife. Some may want fame, some may want fortune, or some may want to experience a life with an old flame that didn’t work out.
If you want to know how this game fairs in comparison to the original without any chance of a single spoiler, let me assure you this game is as good if not better than the original. It would have been easy for Finding Paradise not to live up to the expectations of the original after such anticipation for this release, but Finding Paradise contains easily one of my favourite stories in gaming, and possibly any other entertainment medium.
For those of you who are still with me and are looking forward to a vague/spoiler-free review, let me explain why Finding Paradise is worth the price of admission.
Finding Paradise is a coming of age story, not only for our latest client Colin, but for the series itself. Finding Paradise brings the series to new heights in terms of maturity, morality and powerful storytelling. Colin doesn’t want just any throwaway wish, or anything too outlandish. Colin simply wants to live a happier life, and in order to do this he wants as little of his actual life changed as possible. It is an interesting premise for both Dr Watts and Dr Rosalene to tackle and the broadness of the wish allowed for my own mind to wonder what exact changes could be made to fulfil the wish.
Finding Paradise contains three Acts, each moving the plot in a different direction. The first Act follows the memory traveling formula of To the Moon very closely, as our two doctors jump between memories trying to search for instances that could be changed. However, due to unforeseen circumstances things do not go as planned. This alternate progression certainly kept me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out why this adventure was so different. But the short Act II takes the story, flips it and sends it in a completely new direction for a final Act that includes some of the most powerful story moments I have experienced in recent memory.
After the credits finished rolling during my time with Finding Paradise, I found myself having to sit and assess the experience within my own mind. Finding Paradise has a deep and meaningful message to tell and it can evoke an array of emotions. Personally, I found myself relating to Colin’s life story and seeing similarities between my childhood and his own. But regardless of my personal connections to the tale at hand, Finding Paradise left me wanting to be a better person, it left me wanting to make sure the person next to me was okay. Finding Paradise has a clear message to tell, that no matter how challenging the world may be and no matter how hard things become, life itself is a special gift and we can always come out from the darkness and become a better person because of it. I cannot overstate how much I adore the story within Finding Paradise, and I still cannot think of a story that has evoked so much raw emotion, reflection and contemplation than Finding Paradise. This is a masterful story, told within a mature and well written adventure
Finding Paradise is also an extra special adventure for diehard fans of the Kan Gao series, with those who have played the original To the Moon, A Bird Story, and both minisodes set to receive the most from Finding Paradise. While the game is still an incredibly immersive experience without playing the prior games in the series, those who have will find many fan theories answered, with even more questions asked because of it. Those who have played A Bird Story will definitely find extra enjoyment from Finding Paradise, and I’ll leave it to you to find out why on your own. But I will say, it makes A Bird Story more special than it already was.
Finding Paradise is able to connect with its players in such a strong fashion, due to the naturally written dialogue from every single character in the game. As someone who has tried (and failed) to write dialogue before, it is no easy task to make conversations sound and progress naturally, while also keeping it grounded in realism. Finding Paradise is able to produce natural writing that allowed me to completely immerse myself within each scenario. To the Moon had some fantastic writing, but the jump to Finding Paradise has allowed the writing to become more mature; once again fitting that coming of age motif I stated earlier.
The relationship between Dr Watts and Dr Rosalene feels genuine, and their banter, general conversation and observations on the scenarios are brilliantly written. There are also a lot of pop culture references, and even self-referential conversations on the series that will bring a smile to any gamer. Although I have stated many times about the powerful storyline within Finding Paradise, the game is not against making jokes and having a laugh and these scenes are written just as well as any of the emotional moments.
The picture matching mechanic from the original that was used to jump between memories has been scrapped, replayed with a match three type puzzle and it was for the better. While the newly added puzzles are not difficult by any stretch, they offer a nice change of pace between the dialogue heavy memory scenes and never stick around long enough to slow down the narrative. Early on one of the new mechanics introduced in Finding Paradise allows the player to spend some alone time with both Dr Watts and Dr Rosalene respectively, choosing who they control during certain moments. Unfortunately the mechanic is barely seen again and despite the fact we do control each character separately at given moments throughout the adventure, I would have loved more instances where we could choose who to control and see their personal views on the situation.
Finding Paradise succeeds at providing such an emotional adventure due to the beautiful and iconic soundtrack. I’m pleased to say I think Finding Paradise may have eclipsed the audio offering of the original, as I found myself lingering in certain rooms and even the main menu just to listen to the main theme and other tracks a little longer. Each scene is complemented with evocative tunes that subtlety ebb and flow with the scenarios on screen. But even after finishing Finding Paradise, I cannot find myself forgetting the incredibly emotional track ‘Wish My Life Away’ sung by Laura Shigihara (featured above). This track accompanies the final sequence and it beautifully encapsulates the themes of Finding Paradise. Even the hardest of hearts will find it difficult not be emotionally moved by such an incredible vocal performance.
I loved Finding Paradise, if you didn’t notice already. While only lasting around six hours in total, Finding Paradise is able to produce an incredibly mature and emotional story. While the lack of gameplay may still find some gamers turned away, those who appreciate a strong, memorable and deep story will fall in love. These types of special adventures can only work within a video game setting, and Finding Paradise simply reiterates how truly amazing the gaming industry can be.