The eleventh episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2016.
The absolute best thing about going to a gaming expo is the ability to sit in front of something you know nothing about. Behind each monitor sleeps a fresh new digital mystery. It’s a special kind of magic that is not easily replicated at home because you only ever go after games you’ve heard of, which compromises it. I like to walk into the Leftfield Collection a stranger; I checked the games list beforehand just to be reassured it wasn’t full of titles I already knew.
There’s no way you can have my experience. You’re reading to learn about this new thing and if I do a drive-by with “why, I found it quite stimulating, reader” that’s not going to be enough especially as you can’t play this outside of an expo yet. My job is to tell you about it, to spill some beans. Some beans is better than no beans.
So the seat was open for If Found, Please Return without a developer to gently watch over me. It had some simple instructions. I could move the mouse around. Left click to “interact”. The scrollwheel zooms. Okay. It says 40 Days Left. That doesn’t sound good.
The title screen is where we start. It looks like a hand drawn postcard, but this postcard has many layers.
It soon turned out that the left-click “interact” meant the mouse was a powerful eraser, wiping away one layer of story to reveal another, but it was always smaller, you always needed to zoom in to see it. In this way, a story began to unfold, of someone who couldn’t stop sketching things around her. I suspected the story branched as at times there was more than one area to zoom into, which made it a novel way of implementing a branching mechanism. Seeing the branches exist so clearly in parallel might diminish some sense of “decision making” but if you remember all the way back to Stop Crying About Choice, I don’t consider this a bad thing. Particularly as If Found, Please Return at this point felt more like developing or uncovering a story as opposed to living one out.
The rough sketchbook style was perfect although the restless, blurry nature of the text, while important, sometimes came across as unreadable. Truth was it wasn’t actually unreadable, you just needed to zoom in a little more. Something to get used to.
Of course, if I strip it down and call it a CYOA game, it doesn’t sound that special – but the constant editing and zooming makes If Found, Please Return feel like a descent into a bottomless fractal. Further, I had no compass for predicting where the story was going, so I was hesitant and uncertain about what each wipe and zoom would reveal. Turns out I didn’t actually reach the end of the demo, I just got lost, so I’m not sure where I was supposed to end up.
If Found, Please Return is a project by Llaura Dreamfeel and artist Liadh Young with Liz Ryerson providing music (while some people look out for Disasterpeace, my ears perk up when I hear Ryerson). Speaking to Dreamfeel the day after I dabbled with If Found, it sounds like the project is wayyyy bigger than what was on offer here, prompting me to ask about a save game option (answer: yes).
Not a clue when this one will be out. But you can find the website for If Found, Please Return on the internet.
Interested in the other games I dabbled with? Check out the series index!