If Found… Review
If Found… is a very short visual novel focusing on the message of acceptance and relationships. It mainly revolves around a young transgender woman coming out to her family in a small Irish town, and the feelings she has that come with finding a place to belong. Alongside this coming-of-age tale is a mystical side story that brings a degree of magic and surrealism to the game. A difficult topic to navigate but done extremely well, If Found… brilliantly conveys all the emotions that one goes through during a challenging time in their lives. Throughout the journey you will experience love and heartbreak, and despite the story being only a few hours long, it is likely to leave many with a lasting impact.
Our main plot is set in the winter of 1993 and focuses on Kasio, a college graduate returning home to Achill Island where her family resides. Told through scribbled notes in her diary, Kasio’s life is slowly revealed by going through the pages and erasing her entries. We find out early on that this is the first time her mother and brother have met Kasio as a woman, and because of this we face a lot of uncertainty from the start. While we navigate these unknown waters with her as she tries to find acceptance, we experience many strong emotions — positive moments with her friends, confusing feelings with a potential love interest, and anguish as she watches her family struggle to accept her identity.
In parallel to this plot is a sci-fi side story where an astronaut named Cassiopeia is attempting to investigate a black hole that could bring an end to the world. While Cassiopeia’s journey appears to be a seemingly random event happening in the background, it plays a worthwhile role in amplifying Kasio’s experiences in her timeline. This blends into the main narrative seamlessly, offering readers something different from Kasio’s reality — but important to the feelings she is experiencing.
If Found… does not require its players to actually play a game, but only for them to have an open mind and the willingness to go on this journey with Kasio. Instead of the traditional method of clicking a button for the next line of dialogue, we read through the visual novel by erasing pictures and paragraphs from Kasio’s diary with the touchscreen. By doing this, we uncover scratched-out information and faces of characters that have been scribbled over, and symbolically we are moving forward by getting rid of the past. While using the Nintendo Switch does allow for players to dock the console, the ease of using the touchscreen over the controller makes the handheld mode much more preferable.
As it is set in Ireland, the game is riddled with Irish references and terms. There are annotations that you can read when you come across an unknown word, which is very helpful because it also provides background details on certain events. The only downside is if you are unfamiliar with some of the terms, the flow of the story gets broken up from constantly reading the side notes. However, If Found…is about Kasio’s experiences, past and present, and even if it interrupts the story a few times, this was a great way to help us understand Kasio a little better. It also expands the reader’s knowledge on Irish slang and culture, which is a great bonus!
The game is relatively short, roughly around two hours in total, but it is packed with beautiful artwork and well-written relationships. The quality of the story and the idea of erasing your past is marvelous, appropriately setting the tone and mood for each scene as it occurs. And because it is such a short game, Dreamfeel has done an amazing job with the pacing — every scene was perfect in reflecting Kasio and Cassiopeia’s current emotions, and the colours and vibe of the whole game was fitting to the theme. Especially well done with the concept of erasure and painting over scenes, it was visually pleasing as well as emotionally gratifying to destroy and write a new story.
If Found…is deep and comforting, a little disorienting, and at times heartbreaking. It is by no means trying to make people feel sorry for Kasio. Instead, it is creating an experience that some of us will never go through, and walking side-by-side with a character who does makes reality more understandable. As Kasio, we meet people who accept her, but also face hostility from the ones closest to her. It helps readers relate, understand, and reflect. It may be a very short game, but it tells a warm and powerful story that is worthwhile to read.
***Nintendo Switch review code provided by the publisher.***
- Excellent themes and character relationships
- Beautiful storytelling
- Great pacing
- Unknown terminology can interrupt the flow
- A very short game
- Harder to play on when docked