All I can do is erase.
In If Found…, an interactive visible novel by indie studio DreamFeel, there are two threads woven all through the narrative, one among which is actuality and the opposite fantasy. The sport begins with the fantasy thread, a sci-fi story a couple of younger scientist named Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia has been flung by means of area on a mysterious mission. She’s come throughout a black gap that’s about to engulf the world. She’s in touch with one other human, somebody who’s promised to assist her save the world.
But me? I simply erase.
The cursor in If Found… is, actually, an eraser — the basic, beveled form — that’s swiped throughout the web page. It’s the one mechanic in If Found…; if the participant erases sufficient, the earlier picture will give option to one other, and I can preserve studying. At the beginning, that’s erasing the celebs and skies as Cassiopeia will get nearer to the black gap. Erase sufficient, and also you’ll expose the subsequent thread, or else you’ll be stalled in area perpetually.
The eraser will get smaller because the story progresses, as if it’s being actually used up. Its rubber leaves marks on the web page, the items left behind darkish with the pencil lead faraway from the web page. The sport’s single, easy mechanic, erasing, opens up the sport to nuanced, intimate storytelling. Nothing modifications there; I’m at all times erasing. To transfer ahead, the participant should erase, bodily shifting the cursor back-and-forth over the display to wipe away fastidiously curated recollections.
The second thread of If Found… is advised inside a journal. It’s Kasio’s journal, not Cassiopeia’s. Kasio is a stargazer in her early 20s who’s returned house to Achill Island, a small setting off the coast of Ireland. She moved away to Dublin for varsity, however is visiting house for a month.
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The journal is an intimate peek into Kasio’s life, stuffed with doodles and notes in regards to the individuals she is aware of. The journal very clearly exhibits Kasio’s literal and figurative picture of the island, drawn intimately throughout its pages. The sport’s artwork model makes use of this hand-drawn, inky model all through the sport.
Her journal begins on Dec. 3, however all the pieces’s occurred already — the participant is trying in from the longer term, slowly or rapidly erasing the previous 28 days of Kasio’s life. Why should I erase what’s occurred, or not less than the ideas from when these occasions befell? It’s unclear. That’s a part of the thriller of the sport. It generally feels as if I’m snooping. It at all times feels as if I’m destroying.
The two characters of Kasio’s and Cassiopeia are shifting in parallel to one another in If Found…, however they don’t essentially cross — not less than, not explicitly. Instead, the 2 tales are advised collectively and play off one another with the very clear influences. Story development is braided between these two narratives, every shifting ahead briefly bursts. The journal parts are, nonetheless, the place many of the foremost storytelling occurs. There are sometimes quick scenes whereby the journal entries are acted out, however they’re nonetheless proven in the identical scribbled, hand-drawn model.
If Found… continues on this approach all through Kasio’s month on Achill Island, undoing the ache and trauma of those familial interactions, but additionally undoing the bliss of friendship and connection. That’s the half that makes the story so affecting. Queer tales in media are sometimes boiled right down to tropes, giving us singularly traumatic tales, like with the “Bury your gays” trope that has just lately discovered a lot dialogue.
It’s refreshing and significant to see a posh story through which all items of the characters’ lives are thought-about, every a part of a a lot bigger story of a life, and the fantasy that such a life may also produce. There are painful, actual moments in If Found…, however the sport additionally revels within the help of friendship and household, too. This isn’t distress porn, nor does it paint actuality with a brush that’s too vivid, or unrealistic.
Besides, it’s not what’s on the web page that issues, ultimately. Not if you wish to know what occurs subsequent. Because all the pieces should be erased. There are not any choices to be made, no option to information our hero by means of her journeys. I’m simply there to erase what she’s written. To bear witness to the fabric, after which be sure nobody does, or can.
The likeness of Kasio in Cassiopeia is clear, however the tales have comparable beats, too. As Cassopeia will get nearer to the black gap, Kasio is falling right into a metaphorical black gap of her personal after a battle along with her household, one which tries to push her into the “old home, old habits” of her earlier life throughout her go to.
Kasio is house — and it’s been some time — however this additionally brings in new issues: Kasio is a trans lady, and needs to return out to her mom. A 2 a.m. argument introduces outdated conflicts and confusion: What are you doing along with your life? Where are you going from right here? Why is your hair like that? The mom questions all the pieces, from Kasio’s look to her resolution to check science.
Kasio leaves her mom’s home after the two a.m. battle and takes refuge with an outdated pal, Colum. Colum, his boyfriend Jack, and bandmate Shans reside in an in any other case deserted mansion. They play in a punk band collectively; the large home is the place they apply and reside collectively. It’s rundown and chilly, however it’s theirs. It feels heat on the web page, regardless of the shortage of precise heating on the time.
It’s the form of place I do know. I lived right here, too, after I was youthful, a spot the place the flooring shook from a bass within the basement and a brand new stranger was welcomed on the sofa every week. It’s the place individuals got here once they wished connection, the place I slept after I wished to really feel protected. Everywhere else on the planet I may need been thought-about an outsider: confused, unhappy, and sometimes scared. But there, after I was someplace round Kasio’s age, individuals knew me solely as me.
It’s onerous to erase this place, and lots others. But I perceive that to maneuver ahead in If Found…, I’ve received to erase all of it, not simply the painful recollections. Each web page must be (largely) gone earlier than I can learn the subsequent one and transfer the story ahead. It’s not like I can do something about what occurred anyway, proper? The conceit makes positive I do know that something I’m studying about has already occurred, and is unchangeable. I’m right here to be the final witness to those occasions, even when I’m studying about them second-hand.
I need to erase, as a result of I’ve to know what occurs. With that, If Found… bounces so superbly between the complexities of life. One notably beautiful scene takes place at a punk present at a close-by bar. Colum, Jack, and Shans’ band, The Screaming Bandshees, are taking part in. Kasio arrives slightly late, and she or he’s met with the thuds of a deep bassline, which turns right into a catchy punk present as she walks into the pub.
Her journal, as soon as a mixture of muted hues, is now neon scribbles on a black web page, popping up on the reader as if the very ideas had been electrified. The photographs are frantic, and I wish to keep right here. Caught up within the second, although, I preserve scrubbing away the pages to see what’s subsequent. The pages are messy and chaotic and my coronary heart begins to race. The act of erasing — the frantic moments of my mouse throughout the web page — feels thrilling. It’s becoming. I’m having fun with this singular second in time, however the one approach I can accomplish that is to take away it from existence.
I erase one other few pages, and uncover a quieter second between Shans and Kasio. The gig turns into a celebration on the deserted home, and now Shans and Kasio are alone within the attic, the ceiling actually crumbling above them. It’s quiet and sluggish, and I erase these moments gently and thoroughly, as if my hand and mouse had been submerged in molasses. If I erase slowly, if I’m deliberate in my actions, I can spend a number of extra seconds there.
All the sport’s scenes — each within the journal and in area — are exactly crafted to suit throughout the narrative, which ran virtually two hours for me. The pacing and bodily motion of erasing jogs my memory of video games like Florence, additionally printed by Annapurna Interactive, in how the mechanics mimic the emotion of feeling of a selected second. If Found… makes the bodily motions even easier, however pushes in an intricate, braided story.
The erasing mechanic is so efficient in If Found… as a result of it provides the participant area to expertise the story. Though it’s nonetheless a easy motion, a click on and a swipe, there’s some give. I’ve questioned how different individuals would possibly strategy erasure: Are they fast and wanting to erase a few of these recollections, as I’m with the extra painful ones? What a part of the web page are others erasing first? Are they erasing the entire web page? You should erase many of the web page to maneuver on, however there’s some forgiveness there. Are gamers lingering in the identical spots as me? Using an eraser is like so many issues in life; everybody has a most well-liked technique, even when they’ve by no means considered it that a lot. If Found … forces you to consider it as you’re doing it. You learn, and really feel, after which erase. Or perhaps that’s simply the order that labored for me.
Developer Dreamfeel finally reveals why Kasio is erasing her previous, however the revelation comes close to the top of the story. The ultimate moments of understanding tie into the thriller of the black gap and Cassiopeia, too. It all comes collectively, proper earlier than you are taking it aside.
That’s after I realized that I’d been erasing every of Kasio’s recollections, with out actually understanding why. I suppose I perceive her motivations — the extraordinary moments the place there appears to be no different choice — and I by no means actually took a breath to query it. I simply wished to ensure she was going to be OK, and the eraser gave me the one device I needed to discover out.
So I erased, as a result of it was the one option to rebuild.
If Found… is now accessible on Windows PC, Mac, and iOS. The sport was reviewed on PC utilizing a Steam obtain code offered by the developer. You can discover extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks. For extra data, see our ethics coverage.