Many years ago, I played a video game called, "To the Moon," by Freebird Games. To this day, it has fundamentally changed the way I look at certain aspects of life. It's difficult to explain why the game impacted me so heavily without revealing crucial parts of the story, but ever since playing it, I yearned for more. Six years later, Freebird Games has finally released the sequel, "Finding Paradise," and it's every bit as moving as its predecessor.
Before going too in-depth, it's important to note that "Finding Paradise" isn't a video game in the traditional sense; there's not much actual gameplay involved. Many have instead referred to it as an interactive novel, which I find to be a more accurate description. "Finding Paradise" has a story to tell, and the player's job is to experience it without stressing out over any hurdles most normal games would present. Since the game is so narrative-driven, it is the quality of the story that I find so captivating.
"Finding Paradise" puts you in the shoes of Eva Rosalene and Neil Watts, a pair of doctors who fulfill the wishes of their dying patients by reliving their memories and altering their lives. However, these changes only exist in the patient's mind. The two doctors enter the mind of former pilot, Colin Reeds, and attempt to figure out how to give him the life he wants before his time runs out. Despite the science-fiction premise of the story, "Finding Paradise" touches upon very real, very human topics. And it does so with great care and subtlety; arguably the biggest strength of the game is the superb writing.
Freebird Games does an excellent job at portraying emotions like love or loneliness indirectly. The characters that express these emotions feel so realistic that I found myself empathizing with many of them. They also manage to deftly balance the heartwarming moments with comic relief (mostly from the doctors) that prevents the game from turning into a melodramatic mess.
The incredible music also plays a massive role in separating "Finding Paradise" from its contemporaries. The numerous orchestral and piano ballads composed by Kan Reives Gao are well-composed individually, but when played by themselves they're merely above-average instrumentals. However, they shine brightly in this game by establishing different moods in certain parts of the story, creating peaceful or ominous atmospheres. Many of the climactic parts in the game wouldn't have been nearly as moving were it not for the accompaniment.
Overall, "Finding Paradise" is far greater than the sum of its parts, weaving all aspects of it (yes, including the gameplay) into a beautiful tale about a dying man's final request. Clocking in at around five-hours-worth of gameplay, be sure to get a taste of one of the greatest stories of the year, found here, along with the previous games in the series, "To the Moon" and "A Bird Story."