When I first sat down to play To the Moon, I had already heard about its overwhelmingly positive impact with those who had played it. With YouTubers and veteran players calling it heartwarming and emotionally gripping, I expected the hype to let me down. But as I became moved by the engaging drama, I realized the hype wasn’t just hype: To the Moon is a game that truly has a powerful story. So when the sequel, Finding Paradise, was finally released, one of my best friends from high school and I immediately knew how we would spend our New Year’s Eve.
Like the first game, Finding Paradise follows memory transversal agents Eva Rosalene and Neil Watts as they strive to let a dying man, Colin, live out the life he never had, and have his wishes fulfilled. But unlike the first game, they don’t actually know what his wish is. Vaguely, Colin asks that they make him as happy as possible and change as little as possible of the life he lived. It seems that the man doesn’t know what was missing from his life, and his grieving family isn’t much help in figuring this out either. Thus, it’s left to Eva and Neil to decipher the clues that he’s left behind before time runs out.
Let’s back up a second. What do I mean by “memory transversal agents”? Well, in order to let someone live out their “best life,” Eva and Neil actually enter the minds of their dying clients and rearrange events, thereby “changing” the course of a client’s life, however only in their psyche. Using state-of-the-art technology, the doctors travel through the memories, starting with those formed when their client was elderly, and working their way backward to childhood. At that point, they can figure out what to change and when—usually. As we find in the To the Moon series, the answers aren’t always so obvious. And there are several obstacles—technical malfunctions, memory gaps, and complicated ethical questions—that prevent the process from going smoothly.
This is what makes Finding Paradise and its predecessor so engaging. While the gameplay doesn’t involve much more than walking around, clicking on things, and solving easy puzzles, the real part is the mystery: figuring out what went wrong in someone’s life, when, and how to fix it. The doctors’ interactions with the client serve as the primary focus and plotline of the story. But underneath it all, there’s a subplot. As we learn from watching Neil and how he interacts with other characters, we realize that our lovable goofball is actually harboring some dark secrets, and is lying to those who trust him the most.
My friend, D*, and I spent over 6 hours playing the game—stopping twice, once to munch on sugar cookies and fruit, and again, to watch the ball drop on television. We didn’t finish until the early hours of the morning. Since it’s a short game, Finding Paradise is best played straight through.
Each minute in those six hours captivated us. We found comfort in the familiarities that carried over from the original game—the witty banter between the characters, the gorgeous soundtrack, the cutesy art and animations—and we were delighted by the surprising plot twists. While we were able to guess a major surprising plot twist before it was revealed to us in the game, the anticipation in watching the characters come to our same realization didn’t cheapen the experience at all.
Finding Paradise effectively ties in cameos and motifs from its predecessor and A Bird Story without seeming too overwhelming. Fans of the series will love revisiting familiar faces, whereas newer players will be able to delve into the story without needing to know much information from the previous games. While A Bird Story is extensively referenced in this game—Colin is actually the protagonist of A Bird Story—you can follow along without getting lost. I say this as someone who has never played A Bird Story.
For me, what will be most interesting is seeing how future games tie all the previous games together. Finding Paradise leaves some questions unanswered, which hopefully, will be addressed in the future, and will finally bring players some closure.
*name has been changed for privacy purposes.