One peaceful afternoon, J.J. Macfield and her friend Emily go on a camping trip to Memoria Island, Maine. Things go well, until Emily goes missing during the night. J.J. sets off into the dangerous island to find her, though finds herself unable to die. Even if all of her limbs are chopped off, J.J. will still stay alive for the sake of Emily. What is going on in Memoria Island? Perhaps there's something more...
The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories is a horror puzzle-platformer by White Owls, directed by Swery65, and published by Arc System Works. It was released on October 12th for the PC, Nintendo Switch, and various other platforms.
The central mechanic is that J.J. must mutilate herself to solve puzzles in the environment.
While the game is fairly short, keep in mind that Swery has quite a few tricks up his sleeves. Beware of spoilers!
Now has its own spoiler-filled wiki.
Tropes in The Missing: J.J Macfield and the Island of Memories include...
- 11th-Hour Superpower: During the final boss "battle", J.J.'s resolve causes her regeneration power to work as soon as she gets hurt instead of needing to press a button for a moment for her to will herself back to life. Shifting the gameplay from puzzle solving, to Platform Hell style launching of J.J. around via sawblades and other hazards that previously blocked progress.
- Asexuality: Implied to be the case with Emily. One postgame text conversation has F.K. ask J.J if she has anyone special in her life. She says that her relationship with Emily isn't necessarily romantic, but Emily is her most important person, and she doesn't feel the need for other romantic relationships as long as she has Emily.
- All Just a Dream: At the end of the game, it's revealed that J.J dreamed the events.
- And You Were There: When J.J. wakes up at the end it turns out that the moose headed doctor was a manifestation of an EMT who was trying to revive her; her stuffed animal F.K. (the only character conversing with J.J. in the dream itself) was being used to staunch the wound, and Emily, who was furious and hostile towards J.J. in the dream was waiting nearby with Anger Born of Worry.
- Bait-and-Switch Lesbians: Played with. The game starts off with J.J. and Emily on what appears to be a romantic night out together. The truth is more complicated, as it is revealed J.J. is hiding a secret only Emily knows. Early phone conversations imply that she's trying to hide the fact that she's in a lesbian relationship with Emily. By the end it's revealed that J.J's actual secret is that she's a trans woman. Since the events of the game are all a dream, it's left ambiguous whether her relationship with Emily in the real world is that of close friends or a couple; some phone conversations have J.J. awkwardly bringing up the concept and dropping it, suggested that it's something she's considered but that they may or may not have actually acted on..
- Background Boss: Inverted. Near the end, you play as J.J. as the giant Hairshrieker in the background, while Emily runs back and forth in the foreground.
- BFS: The hairshrieker, who sometimes shows up to chase J.J. carries a massive utility knife. As the manifestation of her suicidal impulses, it's only fitting it wields a version of the blade she cut her wrists with.
- Body Horror: The central game mechanic is purposefully disfiguring yourself to solve puzzles, and none of the animations, sound effects and grunts as J.J. is being mutilate are meant to be pleasant. And once you've gotten used to it by the end of the game, J.J. makes sure to describe in detail what it feels like to have an arm ripped off, just to remind you of what you've been doing to her.
- Chekhov's Gun: F.K., the plushie acts as a makeshift way of keeping J.J.'s wounds pressured during her suicide attempt.
- Concept Art: One of the things the player can obtain by collecting a certain number of doughnuts. They show various designs for J.J. and Emily, including the palette swap designs before their appearance was finalized.
- Cure Your Gays: Or rather, cure your transgender child. After J.J.'s outed by her mother reading her diary, she contacts a doctor who can "cure" her, for a hefty price. It's made pretty clear she's trying to lure J.J. back home to be forced into conversion therapy.
- Double-Meaning Title: If you allow some loose interpretations of syntax (thanks to the games title originally being Gratuitous English). The Missing could refer to: J.J.'s lost memories, J.J. losing body parts as a central mechanic, Emily being a missing person or J.J. coming to terms with being trans, and openly living as a woman...in other words, her Ms.-ing.
- Driven to Suicide: The events of the game are a dream J.J. has while in a coma after attempting suicide when her secret is revealed to the whole school. The plot is essentially her understanding and rejecting her suicide ideation so she can cling on to life long enough for an ambulance crew to save her.
- Dying Dream: The events of the game, except J.J. manages to recover from it. For a short time, though, she actually believes herself to be dead.
- Foreshadowing: It manages quite a bit, despite being only a few hours long:
- One of the more obvious examples is the moose headed doctor, whose shouts of "major haemorrhage" and other medical terminology allude to the fact that J.J. is dying of self inflicted blood loss.
- When JJ is first killed, she screams that she can't die; she has to help Emily. Cue the player using her regeneration ability for the first time. The entire game is basically her doing this after realising the harm her suicide would do to Emily.
- An early puzzle involves burying the corpse of a man to progress the no-longer used (and typically specifically gendered to their assigned at birth gender) name of a trans person is known as a "deadname".
- A note in a shop to someone who's leaving because they're headed off to university is addressed to "little brother".
- Just before reaching Emily's corpse, there's a note, however it's signed by J.J.
- Some of J.J.'s friends texts talk about how she'd rather die than not dress the way she wants. Another friend assures J.J. she has attractive hands. Hand size is a common tell (and source of dysphoria) for trans people who went through puberty before transitioning.
- Gameplay and Story Integration: The gameplay loop of "injure yourself and regenerate" is used to directly parallel J.J's own suffering, and the story beats all come forward in the gameplay. This was a strong enough theme that Swery65 even gave a talk on how to integrate narrative and gameplay at a 2019 Game Developer's Conference panel.
- Gender-Blender Name: J.J.'s first name, Jackie, can easily be a nickname for Jack or Jaqueline. Which makes it far easier to hide the big twist, since characters call her this whether they accept her or not. Notably, some characters use the more clearly feminine Jaquie in their texts, while others use the gender neutral to masculine Jackie.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: J.J. herself has long golden hair and is willing to push herself through an immense amount of pain to help her best friend/girlfriend. Notably, her natural hair color is black, meaning this likely represents an idealised version of herself.
- Happily Failed Suicide: When J.J. wakes up in the real world, she tells Emily she finally understands who she is and they both embrace. Pretty much par the the course when the entire plot was J.J. regaining the will to live.
- Heteronormative Crusader: J.J.'s mother sends her text messages about her dislike of LGBTQ+ individuals; pretty awkward considering that our hero appears to be in a relationship with a girl. When she discovered she's trans (rather than a lesbian as the audience is lead to believe), she wants to send her to what's not too subtly implied to be conversion therapy.
- Implacable Man: The Hairshrieker. As J.J.'s suicidal impulses made manifest, it can only be defeated when she finally resolves to live on.
- Literal Metaphor: The exact metaphor isn't said out loud, but the implications of J.J. limping along like the shadow version of her which became a monster in the beginning while the whole school jeers at her (before also transforming into it for a sort of inverted boss battle) is pretty clear; after being outed, she feels like a monster!
- Man on Fire: Or woman on fire, in this case — burning is one of the many gruesome experiences that J.J. has to inflict on herself.
- Meaningful Name: Professor Goodman is every bit the kind-hearted, friendly and good-natured Reasonable Authority Figure his name suggests.
- Mythology Gag:
- Once again the initials F.K. (usually short for Forrest Kaysen) appear for a character in the game, this time as a stuffed doll of J.J.'s.
- Before the final boss J.J. quotes a certain memetic line from Deadly Premonition.J.J.: Clear as a crisp spring morning!
- Also like Deadly Premonition, the beginning of the endgame takes place in a clock tower. In light of the story of The Missing, it might be relevant that Deadly Premonition's clock tower segment was a boss fight with a character revealed to be a trans woman, who ends up hung from a line, though that game was a lot more ambiguous about things. Both also involve segments where the player character briefly becomes a recurring boss which showed up to chase them.
- No Antagonist: While some characters are mean, the real threat to J.J. is ultimately transphobia (from no specific individual) and her own suicidal impulses.
- Not His Sled: In contrast to the previous games of Swery65, F.K. turns out to be a purely benevolent, if creepy, being.
- Palette Swap: J.J's alternate costumes are this with the exception of one, her appearance in the "real" world.
- Pulling Themselves Together: J.J. can restore her body after being mutilated.
- Puzzle Boss: Strangely enough, fighting Emily as the giant Hairshrieker.
- The Reveal: J.J is a trans woman who was bullied into attempting suicide after being outed at college, and the whole game is a Dying Dream scenario.
- Sdrawkcab Speech: A lot of the moose doctor's and Emily's dialogue is rendered like this.
- Stalker with a Crush: Lily, for J.J. She is not subtle about it at all.
- Supernaturally Validated Trans Person: The game uses this as a twist in one of its subplots ...or rather, the main plot. The entire game is a nightmare J.J. is having to help her regain the will to live, having been Driven to Suicide after being outed as a trans girl. Her appearance when she wakes up is very different, implying that her form was a sort of "true self". Maybe. The game was made by the same creator as Deadly Premonition, who made a point of asking several transgender people for their input on their experiences.
- Sweet Tooth: Certain phone conversations reveal that J.J. eats a lot of sugary food.
- Unknown Character: Somebody created the fake profile of J.J. to out her as trans, but exactly who did it (or indeed if they were any of the named characters) isn't clear (as is the case with many similar forms of bullying). The events which followed it are far more important to the story.
- Wham Line: While it's not as unambiguous as any of the Wham Shots below, the fact that J.J.'s mum finds it unusual that her daughter has girls clothes in her room is the first hint to the bait and switch the plot's pulling on the player.
- Wham Shot:
- The fake social media page made to mock J.J. The situation up to that point is pretty ambiguous - one of her classmates calling her "Princess Packing Extra," less so.
- The ending shot, revealing J.J.'s true body - and the fact she's assigned male at birth, finally contextualizing beyond a shadow of a doubt why her mother got concerned about finding a dress in her room.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Doughnuts, for J.J. They can be collected throughout the game to unlock bonus content.
- Who Needs Their Whole Body?: This is part of the core mechanic of the game. J.J. is made immortal early on, so no amount of mutilation can kill her, and several puzzles actually require her to lose some of her body parts (or even to be reduced to just her head!) in order to proceed. Could be considered a Deconstructed Trope, as the whole process is extremely painful for J.J., and the game pulls absolutely no punches in conveying this to the player.