Finding Paradise review
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Finding Paradise review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on December 23rd, 2022
Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: DREAM OF THE DEAD
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This follow-up to To the Moon is a heartfelt exploration of inner life, and does so successfully as a standalone experience.

Developer: Freebird Games

Price: $4.99
Version: 1.0.7
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Finding Paradise is the second episode in the To the Moon series, which probably means something to anyone who has played To the Moon. I haven't, but the app description for Finding Paradise accurately notes that this game does not require previous knowledge of other games in the series. This experience ends up being a touching exploration of inner life presented through a very light pixel art style and some sci-fi shennanigans.

Choose your own deathwish

The story of Finding Paradise revolves around two doctors who work for a company that has developed a technology they use to hop into the subconscious of people on their deathbeds. Their mission is to reconstruct a new life for those at death's door so that their parting memory fulfills any wishes, dreams, or desires of the person before passing on.

For this particular game, everything focuses on one particular client named Colin who isn't particularly forthcoming about his dying wishes and has a family who is pretty unhappy about his decision to work with this company. Regardless for the doctors, the job is the job, and you as the player alternate between controlling both members of this dynamic duo to solve light puzzles that break up what is otherwise a text-based dialogue-heavy game.

Mind games

A large portion of Finding Paradise is a slice of life story about the person Colin came to be, but the wrinkles introduced by playing as interlopers trying to "fix" his life before he dies creates layers of mystery, twists, and turns that keep it genuinely intriguing. For most of the game, the doctors act as stand-in for the player that you pilot around scenes to piece together their significance.

At the end of any particular scene, you are supposed to have gathered memory "orbs" that you then insert into some object of significance that kicks off a simple matching puzzle you complete before being whisked away to the next memory related to the object you interacted with. This creates a structure where you are hopping between large gaps of time in Colin's life. The space between these scenes also creates some suspense and mystery, but as you play the game you fill in the blanks to eventually learn why Colin was so insistent-yet-cagey about getting this procedure done.

Pesky playfulness

The primary draw of Finding Paradise is almost entirely its story. The game doesn't ask a whole lot of you in terms of problem solving or navigating, which is probably for the best as controlling characters doesn't feel great so you don't want to be in control for longer than you have to before making it to the next round of dialog.

That said, Finding Paradise doesn't really do many favors to help making control it easier. Almost every object interaction feels like it has two or three extra steps to it than necessary, which can get annoying at times. Similarly, Finding Paradise's dialog can be a bit loquacious through its constant insertion of jokes and bits between lines that actually drive the action forward. I'd be ok with these if they were a little fewer and further between, but it feels like every sequence has at least 2-3 moments where the game is giving you a wink and a nudge and it feels too forced. Without any of those moments, Finding Paradise establishes a charm of its own, and every time it tries to add to it with little gags it's a bit distracting.

The bottom line

I found myself genuinely moved by the story in Finding Paradise. Making my way toward the end wasn't particularly challenging (which is good), but it sometimes did feel like things were drawn out unnecessarily (which is... less good). Still, if you are looking for a narrative-forward experience on mobile with an intriguing sci-fi premise this game is probably among the best picks you could make.

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