The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories Review

Developed by White Owls
Published by Arc System Works
Reviewed on Switch (also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC)

In 2010 Suehiro Hidetaka, better known as SWERY65, created the cult classic Deadly Premonition. SWERY created a murder mystery that delved far into the supernatural as well as drew inspiration from similar cult classics such as Twin Peaks. He filled it with bizarre characters as well as a gripping story that held fans for years. He later went on to create D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, an Xbox One original game that was unfortunately doomed to never be finish. It also established a lot of mystery as well as ramped up the strange and supernatural elements even further from what we’ve seen. Now with his new studio, White Owls Inc., SWERY has released the next game born from his strange, mysteriously twisted mind: The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories.

You play as J.J., a young girl who decided to take a camping trip with with her girlfriend Emily. Suddenly you wake up in the woods and Emily is nowhere to be found. Along the way you get killed in an accident but discover that as long as every part of your body isn’t completely destroyed, you can heal yourself and trudge forward in your search to find Emily. As you play through the game you’ll come across moments where you may have no choice but to maim yourself in order to progress through the various puzzles in the environment. This could include losing several body parts, getting hit by wrecking balls, and even getting set on fire. As long as her head remains intact, then J.J. can always recover her lost limbs and continue on the journey. As you play thorough the game you’ll find collectible donuts that’ll unlock costumes for J.J. to wear, give you backstory via her chat history in her phone messages, and even concept art for the game the more you collect.

The sound design is pretty standard. Music suddenly chimes in if you manage to either discover a secret. You’ll also run into a specific type of enemy that lures you in with chiming tune much like a music box, only to cut you up into enough pieces to actually fit inside a music box except for your head.You have a button that’s set to have J.J. call out to Emily or whoever else may or may not be lurking nearby. There’s a pack of birds that reacts to noise and will attack you if you use the call command. Each bird cuts a different part of your body. Another aspect of the sound design is how disjointed the voice acting sounds as you’re chasing after Emily. J.J. is the only normal sounding person in the game. Whenever you hear anyone else speak it sounds strange. Whether that’s actually intentional or if it’s Japanese voice actors trying their best to speak English is difficult to say. 

The enemies in the game are primarily the traps that can damage you, but sometimes setting off these traps may be the only way to go forward. For instance, you need to throw something to knock a platform down to the ground, but there’s nothing but a barbwire fence that’ll slice your arm off if you get too close. Your only option might very well be to cut off your arm using said fence, pick up the arm, and lob it at the suspending platform to bring it down to your level. Another example could be an incredibly small fissure that might require you to lose everything except your head to get into. Once you’ve got nothing but just your head, you can then roll inside to progress. There is the occasional boss fight or enemy that you have to outright avoid otherwise it’ll either carve you up bit by bit or just outright obliterate you on the spot. 

The only thing that may or may not be problematic for some people who decide to pick up The Missing is that not every single of the puzzles seem to be very challenging. There aren’t many places where you will necessarily hit a wall and forces you to either rethink your strategy or restart the entire chapter. At the same time however, it’s not exactly a walk in the park the whole way though. It’s the right amount of challenge to keep players engrossed and focused so that once the challenge is complete, some light gets shed onto the mysteries while other begin to surface. Also, if you’re looking at this game as a horror filled experience, the majority of the tension lies in the suspense leading up to the moments the big monsters appear rather than throughout the entire game. The Missing is less horror and more of a bizarre, supernatural game than anything else. 

In the end, I would highly recommend playing this game especially considering it’s release during Halloween season. The mystery of The Missing is fun to unravel and the puzzles are balanced nicely with the story as you progress through the game. With its great price point, it’s more than well worth the investment. This is SWERY65’s first game since D4, so if you are a fan of his previous cult classic hits, then you’ll no doubt love The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories.