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Early in this game, JJ witnesses what appears to be a clone of herself being murdered. Not long after that, JJ is struck by lightning and set on fire. After a deer-headed humanoid in a doctor's outfit crawls on all fours and rushes over to her and begins repeating medical quotes, JJ manages to snap her body back into place and extinguish her flames, pick up her plush toy, see her plush toy break into pieces that float away in the wind, and burst into tears as the game's lyrical theme song begins playing.
It's very clear that I'm in for one hell of a ride.
The central gameplay conceit - that JJ can sever her limbs or become decapitated and can pick up and throw her limbs, or roll around and jump as a severed head that's small enough to fit into tiny gaps - stopped feeling strange to me once I got used to it, and I began to think of it as just another form of puzzle-solving.
As that's what this game is. It's a puzzle-platformer similar to games such as Another World and Prince of Persia. The realistic movement, with jumping and climbing that's very similar to how a real, somewhat athletic human moves, is a big part of the gameplay. But how easily JJ loses limbs is a bit more "video-gamish". Along with the strange rules the game has - rules such as:
Rules like that seem arbitrary but are key to solving many of the game's puzzles. Other puzzles simply involve moving normally and doing things that don't involve self-injury.
And speaking of the puzzles, they are quite varied, along with the level design. One section involves reading notes that provide hints on how to solve puzzles that don't involve self-injury in anyway. Another section is entirely a platforming section as a severed head. Each area tends to have its own unique theme or gimmick, keeping things fresh. And just when the game feels like it's running out of ideas, it ends.
And what an ending it is. Some people saw the surprise(s) coming a mile away, while others (such as myself) missed some of the hints and were caught offguard. But either way, this game has a surprisingly powerful message that may change how you view the problems other people are dealing with in their lives. I'll just leave it at that.
The Missing: J.J Macfield and the Island of Memories is not a particularly long game, but I replayed it twice and got a livestreamer to play it - who immediately restarted the game for a second playthrough right after she finished it, and told me the game is now one of her favorites. That's saying something. Definitely give it a look.
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