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Video Game / The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories

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This game was made with the belief that nobody is wrong for being what they are. note 

One peaceful afternoon, J.J. Macfield and her girlfriend Emily go on a camping trip to Memoria Island, Maine. Things go well initially, until Emily goes missing during the night. J.J. sets off into the dangerous island to find her, and only a few minutes later sees her being chased by the Hairshrieker, a mysterious, shadowy hair monster that haunts the island. After finding out that she is unable to die, J.J. must use her newfound immortality to mutilate herself to progress and find Emily before the Hairshreiker finds both of them. 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, 2018 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.

The Missing: J.J Macfield and the Island of Memories contains examples of:

  • 11th-Hour Superpower: During the Final Boss "battle" against the Hairshrieker, 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.
  • Alien Sky: The sky is often heavily overcast, with clouds rushing past at relentlessly high speeds.
  • 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.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: While in tight areas that J.J. can only get in and out of as a decapitated head, she's unable to regenerate even if she has room to do so, so as to prevent the player from trapping themselves with no way to re-decapitate.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Toward the end, you become a giant-sized Hairshrieker who has to attack and harm Emily.
  • 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; the penultimate boss battle has you play as J.J./the giant Hairshrieker in the background, while Emily runs back and forth in the foreground.
  • BFS: The Hairshrieker 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.
  • Big Bad: The Hairshrieker is the monster that haunts Memoria Island and is chasing down J.J. and Emily. It is revealed to be the embodiment of J.J.'s suicidal feelings after being outed as a transgender girl- the true goal is to kill her and thus allow JJ to find the will to live, bringing her out of her nightmare.
  • 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. J.J. regenerating herself isn't much more pleasent either; if she's doing anything more complex than manifesting replacement body parts, you're treated to graphic imagery and sounds as she snaps bones back in place or regrows skin. 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.
  • Book Ends: The game both begins and ends at the lake shore.
  • Bullied into Depression: Early in the game, it's made clear that J.J. is dead and experiencing some sort of afterlife. The game eventually reveals she is currently in a Dying Dream after attempting suicide after being outed as a transgender girl at college.
  • Chekhov's Gun: F.K., the plushie, acts as a makeshift way of keeping J.J.'s wounds pressured during her suicide attempt.
  • Critical Annoyance: Once J.J. is reduced to a head, the screen goes Deliberately Monochrome, with bloodstains on all four corners of the screen, indicating that she needs to regenerate herself, as running into any harmful obstacle as a head will result in a One-Hit Kill.
  • Critical Existence Failure: A big aversion. J.J. can regenerate any damage as long as her head's intact, but she loses limbs each time she takes damage, slowly but surely impairing her abilities. Losing one arm doesn't impact her mobility but impairs her ability to grab and hold things, losing one leg slows her crawling speed and harshly reduces her ability to remain upright (she can "stand" while immobile, but trying to move results in her falling over after a hop or two), losing the other leg slows J.J. to a crawl and disables her from jumping or lifting herself off the ground. Taking further damage from there reduces her to just her head, which is capable of rolling on the ground and hopping but not much else.
  • 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.
  • Curse That Cures: For a given level of "cure". Getting decapitated while afflicted by a broken neck relieves the effects of the latter injury, thus turning the world right-side up again without regenerating. J.J. can't have a broken neck if she has no neck, after all. Naturally, self-inflicting this sort of injury is necessary for some secrets.
  • Deadly Rotary Fan: Getting sucked into a wood chipper fan is yet another of the many horrific injuries J.J. will suffer. Not actually deadly, as it just reduces J.J. to a head instead of killing her.
  • Developer's Foresight: After you beat the game, should the player go for a second playthrough as J.J.'s pre-transition self, you'll find that voice actor Steve Wiley does all of the performance work, saying the very same lines of the story, making the very same "Emily!" calls, taking the very same breaths and grunts and groans and crying, and doing the very same screams of pain when taking damage to the limbs (some of them high-pitched), as her passing counterpart.
  • Double-Meaning Title: If you allow some loose interpretations of syntax (thanks to the game's 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 other words, her Ms.-ing.
  • Dream Within a Dream: Of the False Awakening variety. After finally slaying the Hairshrieker and regaining her will to live, J.J. wakes up at the lake shore where she and Emily made camp. The sky is clear and sunny, and the world seems normal, but J.J. is in fact still in her Dying Dream, and has to make her way back to the meadow where she first gained the power to regenerate before finally awakening for real.
  • 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. Additionally, it's heavily implied that if J.J. had successfully commited suicide, Emily would begin to suffer this trope in turn.
  • 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.
  • Falling Damage: J.J.'s legs will break off with a long fall, but she has to fall a very far distance for this to happen. Being set on fire reduces this height considerably, causing even moderate drops to snap her legs and then upper body off. Avoiding falls while on fire is often necessary to bring the blaze where it needs to be, because being reduced to a head will put J.J. out.
  • Flipping the Bird: Two of J.J.'s phone stickers do this: one sticker says "GO TO HELL" with a bird-flipping hand; the other has a donut saying "Motherfucker" while doing the double-flipping with both hands.
  • Foreshadowing: It manages quite a bit, despite being only a few hours long:
    • The first thing you see the Hairshrieker, she is shown killing an image of J.J., although the actual J.J. never comments on it. As it turns out, the Hairshrieker is a manifestation of J.J.'s depression, which drove her to commit suicide.
    • One of the more obvious examples is the moose headed doctor, called the Deer Man, whose shouts of "major hemorrhage" and other medical terminology allude to the fact that J.J. is dying of self inflicted blood loss.
    • When J.J. 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 their "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.
  • Genre Shift: The last stretch of the game, everything from Old Holy Town onward, drops the self-harm puzzle elements in favor of heavy plot focus and platforming centered challenges. There are also no more donuts after Old Holy Town, limiting exploration.
  • 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 led to believe), she wants to send her to what's not too subtly implied to be conversion therapy.
  • HP to One: Some dangers, especially the blade-legged Baby Dolls, instantly reduce J.J. to a severed head.
  • Implacable Man: The Hairshrieker. As J.J.'s suicidal impulses made manifest, it can only be defeated when she finally resolves to live on.
  • Injured Vulnerability: Getting lit on fire reduces J.J.'s ability to endure damage in two ways. First, it greatly lowers the height at which falls will cause her to lose parts of her body, and second, bone-breaking injuries will instead decapitate her.
  • Invincible Boogeymen: The Hairshrieker occasionally shows up, and shifts the gameplay from solving puzzles to advance to simply running and clearing obstacles as quickly as possible.
  • 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.
  • Losing Your Head: Decapitation is one of the many injuries J.J. can suffer. She can still roll around and hop in this state (in fact this is sometimes required to fit through tiny passages) but any further damage will kill her.
  • Meaningful Name: Professor Goodman is every bit the kind-hearted, friendly and good-natured Reasonable Authority Figure his name suggests.
  • Mental Monster: The "Hairshrieker" which occasionally shows up to chase J.J turns out to be a manifestation of her own suicidal urges; wielding a version of the razor she attempted to kill herself with.
  • 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.
  • Names to Trust Immediately: Professor Derek Goodman is exactly that—a kindly professor who looks after J.J. and becomes friendly with her.
  • Not His Sled: In contrast to the previous games of Swery65, F.K. turns out to be a purely benevolent, if creepy, being.
  • One Curse Limit: J.J. can lose limbs at any point, but otherwise can only be afflicted with one major injury at a time. Getting decapitated will remove the effects of having broken bones (after all, J.J. can't have broken limbs or a broken neck if she's just a head) and put her out if she's on fire (though her hair will remain singed). Getting lit on fire while suffering a broken neck will curiously remove the previous injury, and blows that would normally break bones will instead shatter J.J.'s body and decapitate her if she was previously burned. Trying to inflict any injury at all on J.J. when she's just a head will kill her.
  • Palette Swap: J.J's alternate costumes are this with the exception of one, her appearance in the "real" world.
  • Post-End Game Content: Completing the game causes F.K. dolls to appear in past levels. Collecting them will unlock several more text messages from F.K., Emily, and J.J.'s mom to provide some final moments of characterization.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: J.J. can restore her body after being mutilated.
  • Puzzle Boss: Strangely enough, fighting Emily as the giant Hairshrieker.
  • Queer Establishing Moment: The game uses a Bait-and-Switch. It teases J.J and Emily as a lesbian couple, but the actual twist is that J.J is a trans girl. There's a slow ramp up of hints, but it becomes completely unambiguous when a flashback shows her being outed at college, leading to an Attempted Suicide and the reveal that the game's a Dying Dream.
  • Residual Self-Image: J.J.'s a young woman with flowing golden hair and fashionable clothing. In reality, she's a pre-transitional trans woman with short black hair, though gallery images reveal she actually bought the outfit she's shown wearing while on an outing with Emily.
  • 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.
  • Role-Reversal Boss: Near the end, there's a sequence where J.J transforms into the Hairshrieker, the monster that keeps chasing her, forcing the player to control her as a Background Boss and "defeat" Emily, who's wielding a shotgun like a typical action game protagonist. This serves as a mindscrewy metaphor for... suicide ideation, gender dysphoria, and Anger Born of Worry amongst other things.
  • Scenery Dissonance: The Old Holy Town chapter is the only one in the game set during full daytime (the rest of the game takes place either vaguely at night or with a heavily overcast sky), and is the setting of the second Hairshrieker chase.
  • Sdrawkcab Speech: A lot of the Deer Man's and Emily's dialogue is rendered like this.
  • Self-Immolation: Burning is one of the many gruesome experiences that J.J. has to inflict on herself.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Lily, for J.J. She is not subtle about it at all.
  • Supernaturally-Validated Trans Person: 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.
  • Timeskip: Invoked, but ultimately subverted in a rather mind-screwy way. Upon finally catching up with Emily at the roof of the clock tower, and discovering she's committed suicide by hanging herself, J.J. follows suit. Time then begins to pass rapidly, followed by the words "100 YEARS LATER" appearing on screen, at which point J.J. finally slips out of the noose and falls into the final chapter, and nothing from there seems to respect the supposed one-hundred year time lapse. Seeing as how J.J. is still in the dream world, time is a meaningless concept.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Doughnuts, for J.J. They can be collected throughout the game to unlock bonus content.
  • 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 that the plot's pulling on the player- J.J. is not experiencing homophobia, but transphobia.
  • Wham Shot: Two, in regards to J.J. being trans:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Yuri Genre: The game is about the relationship between J.J. and Emily, two students who go on a romantic getaway to Memoria Island, and end up running away from a monster called the Hairshrieker. Much of the plot is about their relationship and how it affects J.J.; though she is eventually revealed as transgender, she is still treated as a woman.