If Found… by DREAMFEEL is a wonderfully simple narrative packaged inside of a single interactive mechanic. It asks you to erase memories inside of a diary, one by one, until all that’s left is an updated and better understanding of our main character, Kasio.
It’s universal in more ways than one, asking the player to be patient and to extract a sense of understanding from its pages. Playing it left me feeling introspective about my own formative years, too, and how we’re all just trying to figure this out as we go.
Check out my video review above or read the transcript below.
If Found… starts with Kasio floating through space and discovering that one of the planets in our solar system is actually a black hole. As its gravity well slowly pulled her in, I scrubbed at the screen with an eraser by holding down my mouse button to reveal Kasio’s diary.
Opening it reveals pages full of doodles, dates, and illustrations that all start from December of 1993 in Ireland. By all accounts, that might as well be another universe altogether, and for Kasio this rings especially true since the pages of this diary contain vivid memories of her existence as a twenty-something stumbling through life trying to get a grasp of who she is amidst pressure from her family to just hurry up and figure it out already.
After acquiring two separate university degrees, Kasio still struggles to understand her purpose and what she really wants for herself. Kasio also struggles to form meaningful relationships in her life, and hides in her fascination with the stars to remind herself how insignificant it all feels anyway.
You progress through the story by moving an eraser over the screen and erasing illustrations, scribbles, and words from the pages of the diary. Erasing the screen will also bring up new scenes and memories that you can continue to uncover by removing layers and replaying moments from Kasio’s formative years.
The scenes range from fallouts with family, to meeting a band of outcasts in whom you find solace, to going to a punk show – moments that stood out enough for Kasio to record them in detail. Occasionally you’ll click and drag the screen across pages of illustrations that all play out a scene, paired with an ethereal score that helps sell the intergalactic trip through Kasio’s life, warts and all.
Without giving away specific story beats, Kasio’s search for acceptance and understanding is something that can feel like an ongoing struggle for many folks out there, present company included. There’s a very personal truth to Kasio’s tale that reminds me a lot of my own.
Back of the Box Quote: "Design by subtraction."
Type of Game: Visual Novel
Liked: Heartfelt story wrapped inside of wonderful illustrations, an amazing soundtrack, and simple controls.
Disliked: The eraser can take some getting used to on PC. You can make the eraser size bigger in the settings.
Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS
Release Date: May 19, 2020
Played: About two hours to finish the story.
For parts of the story, Kasio drives people away as she searches for people who understand her tendency to wander without obvious direction. As a result, Kasio pushes away people who want her to fit in but there’s a certain peace in understanding that everything is finite. Things like relationships, friendships, and even our own journeys.
Kasio’s dive into the black hole gives her a chance to revisit painful memories as well as memories on which she looks back fondly. Each memory serves as building blocks of the person she gets to choose that she wants to become.
There is a beautiful simplicity to the way this story unfolds and emerges as if from under layers of thick fog, and the game fleshes out some of its themes quite elegantly, with an ending that perfectly wraps it all up. At first, your choices feel arbitrary, but they add up to so much more.
Having control over certain elements – like the simple act of erasing, or, later on, doodling – helps cement you inside of a beautiful, heartwarming story that you can experience in about two hours. The game doesn’t shy away from using Irish words and references to specific parts of Irish culture that help illuminate a new world to me. Thankfully, there are helpful footnotes that help explain them all.
The little, found snippets of Kasio’s life snap into place very naturally, even when spliced inside of this sci-fi tale of an explorer searching for answers. I’m glad I got the chance to experience this game, especially right now.
I’ve been thinking about life before social distancing and the last times I saw family back home, or got together with friends. If Found… does a beautiful job of letting me vicariously experience Kasio’s life while inspiring me to contemplate similar moments in my own life as well. The beautiful illustrations, framing, and score make this game truly special and well worth checking out.