REVIEW: Finding Paradise

Finding Paradise is a story-heavy RPG, so even though gameplay matters, its success hinges on the story. In spite of a key character being on his death bed, going through his memories is a shallow experience that won’t rouse strong feelings or interest.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-Player
Genres: RPGMaker, Story Rich
Developer: Freebird Games
Publisher: Freebird Games
Release date: 14 Dec, 2017

First Impressions

When I was first looking at Finding Paradise (FP), I was certain I would be in for a grand time. The review score is at an impressive 97%, with thousands of people giving their opinion. I figured it would be particularly poignant, either pulling at my heart strings or leaving me something to ponder for a while. As I got into FP though, it didn’t really deliver for me. Since the story was a significant part of my issue with FP, I will emphasize that throughout the review there will be spoilers about the story.

The lighting of this area makes this early scene come off as very moody, in a good way.

Gameplay

Though FP is an RPG maker game, there’s no RPG elements such as combat or leveling up. FP is essentially an interactive story, with the gameplay consisting of exploring areas, talking with other characters, and advancing the story. However, the story doesn’t advance in a sequential or linear fashion, as you zip back and forth through the dying man’s life. I’d contend the game works reasonably well in framing each area you play through and showing the main figures involved. It’s almost always clear what you need to do in each section, and you can usually predict what items in the vicinity will have significance.

This must be from the past, as nobody has those large TVs anymore.

Story

I found FP’s story to be strange, confusing, and pathetic. You play as a male and female duo working for a company that taps into terminal peoples’ minds to fulfill their pre-death fantasies. In this case, you’re trying to do this for an older gentleman who keeps stone-walling about what his wish is, saying he doesn’t want any changes made to his life, which would defeat the entire point of getting them involved.

The primary source of regret he has is when he said goodbye to his imaginary friend, spurred on by him getting married and not having time for that anymore. This is beyond bizarre, and hardly seems like a loss, compared to family and friends dying, trauma, etc. As you explore his mind, you see moments in his life he felt some remorse or disappointment in, yet they’re so paltry I rolled my eyes at how charmed a life he led. The worst he ever seemed to have it is when he was a lonely kid, but there were no indications he was being bullied or had neglectful, unloving parents. If that’s his life at its worst, I’ll have what he’s having.

What makes no sense to me is that if he misses his imaginary friend so much, there’s nothing prohibiting him from bringing her back. It’s his imagination, it’s all in his own mind! He’s not feeble-minded and senile, so what’s stopping him from playing pretend with himself like he used to? He’s upsetting his wife with the implication he regrets how his life turned out, all for the sake of a pretend pal? She doesn’t believe him when he says how much he loves his family, as his actions speak far louder than his words. “Hey, I love my family with all my heart, I have no regrets… but here’s thousands of dollars, grant me one final wish before I die, when I could be spending this time with them instead. Here’s the important part. Don’t change a thing.” The protagonists read between the lines, why wouldn’t his family?

It seems really rude to be on your cell phone right next to a dying man like that.

Graphics

The graphics in FP come from RPG Maker, but they do a serviceable job for a game of this nature, as they put effort into adjusting lighting and using different visual effects for punch. For instance, the developers make good use out of the premise that you’re inside a person’s memories, as things don’t always have to follow the rules of physics or reality. In some situations I feel like they back out of this prematurely, like when you change the doctor’s avatars.

Why ride in the plane when you can hang out on top?

Sound Design

There’s several tracks that play throughout FP, and I really enjoyed the different instrumental music that was composed for the game. Of course, I’ve always been a sucker for that style of music, so that’s a low standard to clear. The sound effects used were stock RPG Maker noises, but again they served their purpose, so I had no problem with that.

That doesn’t look like something you’d want to find in somebody’s mind.

Pros

  • The introductory clip shows the main characters avoiding a squirrel on the road, almost wrecking the car as they barely dodge vehicles carrying hazardous materials. Over the top moments like these show one part of the writing I liked, which was the comedy.
  • Not every character shines, but many of them had strong, interesting personalities. For instance, the two characters you control, as well as Roxanne.

Cons

  • The inclusion of the “mini-game” battles against the antagonist didn’t work well. They included more than one forced loss, which just wasted time. It wasn’t funny, interesting, or engaging, just a distraction.
  • Throughout most of FP, the movement speed of the characters is slow, which doesn’t really fit this mindset that they’re on a tight time limit. It’s only in the late game that you start jogging around.

Final Thoughts

At a certain point, I stopped being interested in the story, and simply wanted to get it over with. I think it’s because going through a dying man’s memories should be significant and potentially painful. Even though he denied any significant regrets, for him to be going through with this, we’d encounter something momentous that occurred. Maybe he was wise enough that he didn’t want to blotch out sorrowful moments he experienced, but we’d see them all the same. However, there were never any devastating losses or heart-rending events he went through. At worst, they were goofy or clumsy fumbles in what could have been moments where he looked more cool or eloquent (and in some ways, this may have given him an awkward charm or likability).

As someone who’s lived in the real world, I can’t relate to a guy who’s gotten everything one could want out of life (satisfying life-long career, good health, and a loving family), and this is the worst he’s ever had it. When I started to realize there wasn’t going to be a pay-off to this game, the entire story became a farce to me, and I had no empathy for this nut job who had an imaginary friend far beyond the point it made any sense for him to.

Based on the “woe is me nature” of this story, trying to make waterworks out of a situation where I only shrug my shoulders apathetically, I don’t want to play other games in this series to see where the underlying story goes. It’s a shame too, because the sense of humor did mesh with my own, and I jived with the characters alright, but I want to engage with stories that have gravity to them. A game that handled this much better, with largely similar gameplay, was Rakuen, of which the music alone is enough to be emotionally stirring. This is because the game’s story addresses legitimate loss and grief. I don’t recommend FP, because I don’t want to sniffle as someone plays the world’s smallest violin over non-issues, and I don’t see why others would want to either.

Written by
Fruit N Doggie
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