The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories (tw self harm/gore)


#1

I’m curious what people think of this game.
I was hesitant to purchase it because the trailers show a woman mutilating her body to solve puzzles and that seemed pretty upsetting.
But I read this article from Heather Alexandra on Kotaku about how The Missing gets queer love stories right, and that got me curious.

I’ve spent about an hour with the game, and I’m pretty torn. On one hand, I find the characterization really intersting. As you go you unlock text conversations with people and I find that really cool. It’s my main reason for playing. On the other hand… oh boy do I find the actual gameplay fairly upsetting.

I don’t play horror games, so is it just me? Is this sort of normal/fine for the genre? The game isn’t as gory as it could be since you go into a silhouette after taking damage, but the SOUNDS are so rough.

My big issue with the game is that it doesn’t feel like J.J. is using her regenerative powers to solve puzzles. It feels like I, the player, am torturing J.J. against her will in order to solve puzzles.

Like I said, I’m about an hour in and so far there hasn’t really been any acknowledgement by J.J. of what’s going on. After she finds that she should have died by regenerates… she doesn’t really comment on it. She just moves on. Then you reach the first puzzle that requires you to dismember yourself by walking straight into some spikes and… she still doesn’t say anything about it. I’m throwing her arm around to move blocks and weigh down a platform and she doesn’t ever acknowledge it really. Other than, of course, the horrible screams. The way she reacts to taking damage definitely makes it feel like it is something that I am doing to her rather than something she has resolved to do in order to progress, and it feels pretty bad.

I’m curious if anyone has had a similar experience?


#2

I won’t defend the feel of the gameplay because it is pretty quirky, but imo the ending of the game recontextualizes the violence completely. What seemed like wanton violence and gore for its own sake is explicitly given an explanation in the last moments that pulls it all together.

I don’t want to spoil anything because being surprised at the story was what cemented this game in my heart, but I also hate being the “wait and see” person in this case.


#3

Thanks for the insight.
I’ve had the ending spoiled for me unfortunately, but I’m still struggling to move past the feeling that it is me, personally, the player, enacting very explicit torment on someone.
Scenes like the monster chase sequence feel pretty ok and are still tense stressful and you’re going to get hurt.

I’m going to finish the game since it looks like it’s only about 5 hours long. Maybe playing through the rest of it will warm me up to it.


#4

I hadn’t noticed this thread, so I responded over in the What are You Playing? thread.

tl;dr - I think it’s a well crafted, very Swery game, but it might be a bit too much for me to endure.


#5

I’m about 2 or so hours into it I think. (I’m at a train) and I’m feeling pretty mixed. I was hoping for something a bit more like Oxenfree and instead it’s more like Limbo. My GF was really put off and kinda frustrated with the main mechanic of a young girl being violently hurt to solve puzzles. Which, regardless of how it’s recontextualized later, is a pretty fair thing to be put off by.

I’m playing on PC and experience a really annoying bug where I have to use my mouse to navigate the initial phone menu. It causes the cursor to constantly go to the left. As if the controls weren’t awkward already.

I do like some of the story bits in the old phone messages, though some of the localization has been… well it feels like a game from a different time period in a lot of ways.


#6

Are you on Windows 7, possibly using an Xbox One controller? The “always pulls in a direction” issue is a very common Windows problem, especially with wirelessly-connected Xbox One controllers, that I used to endure in a wide variety of Unity games. It has to do with how Windows interprets the controller’s input, and whether or not the developers accounted for it.

Windows 7 tends to see wirelessly-connected Xbox One controllers, connected with the wireless dongle, as XINPUT devices, rather than native Xbox One controllers. When devs don’t account for this, the games ‘expect’ Xbox One input, but you send it XINPUT input, which is usually all the same inputs but mixed up. It looks like this is also a Unity game, so this could be your problem.


#7

Thanks!

I’m on Windows 7, but don’t use a wireless controller. I’m sure it’s something similar though. I use a PS4 controller and typically use a 3rd party program to it working, but this game actually recognizes inputs without the 3rd party program. I suspect it could be an issue caused by Steam as I’ve had Steam be the source of many other similar input issues, especially with Unity games.

Admittedly I’ve not looked into it much since it’s not THAT big a deal and I figured it’s probably common enough that it would be fixed in a patch or something. Though they did release on a lot of platforms…


#8

Oh yeah, that’s definitely an Xinput problem! PS4 controllers are Xinput on Windows, and Unity must have some default setting that causes this issue if it’s not addressed in advance by the devs. A common ‘fix’ is to use Big Picture mode and set the controller type there to PS4, in Steam, but really, it’s a cheap workaround that affects all other games you launch through Steam, and might break the others while it’s activated.

I found out about this while trying to resolve an issue with Hollow Knight, and ended up helping the devs sort out the problem because I had banged my head against the issue before in other Unity games. You might have to raise a ruckus if it ever cripples your play in another game, though - way fewer players use Windows 7 these days than you might think! Anyway, glad the game is otherwise working for you.


#9

I’ve now finished the game and I will admit that the last 30 minutes of the game are super interesting and good.

I love the part where J.J. has accepted herself and resolved to fight her demon, and in doing so she instantly recovers from damage, so you now use spikes as a way to propel yourself through the chase sequence. Really really cool mechanically and thematically.

I wish there wer more of that last 30 minutes sprinkled throughout the game. I wrote this post after playing a little over an hour of the game and sleeping on it. When I played the game the next day, I had resolved to just get through it. So at that point the violence didn’t bother me quite as much because I had willfully distanced myself from it (the couple days between play sessions helped). But then I just found myself playing through 3 more hours of very slow puzzles. They’re reasonably interesting puzzles and not terribly hard, but the animations are so slow when you have to hurt yourself and recover multiple times while you’re figuring out a solution that isn’t immediately obvious. Plus trying to collect all the donuts because the character work is what makes the game worth playing.

Ultimately, I think I really appreciate what Swery is going for, and I’m glad this exists, but I would like to see it done in a way that more people can enjoy.


#10

I went over and read your post. I agree with everything you said (scary lawnmower story btw). It’s the voice work and sound effects that really make it hard to endure.

Towards the end of the game there is a part where J.J. talks about the struggle she went through to get where she is and what it feels like to have an arm broken over and over. It’s intense but I appreciated finally getting some acknowledgment of what’s been going on from the character.

I think the ending is worth watching. Maybe look up a playthrough and watch the last 30 minutes or so, and also see if you can find the texts between J.J. and her friends because that stuff is all very good.


#11

I finished game last night. Though I need to go back and collect all the donuts.

I do agree that the ending chase with her inner demon and the exact nature of her situation does recontextualize the whole game play mechanic of self harm, but it’s still uncomfortable in that it’s extreme violence against a young woman. “She tough because of all the terrible horrible pain she went through.” It uses the trope very well, but it’s still a trope.

I really hope someone write up a long essay deconstructing the themes, because Hoh boy, there’s a lot going on.

This was definitely one of those games where I wasn’t really enjoying the mechanics but pressed on to the end and ended up feeling really good about it. Those last couple of chapters certainly have some of the best moments of the year. (Especially that “last boss” fight! What a fun inversion, even if it was pretty simple. Also the “100 years later” bit really resonated with me as well as made me laugh in that “fuck, I’ve been there and I’m glad I’m passed that” sort of way.)


#12

Totally agree.

If you ever find a good essay, you should post it, because I’d love to read that.

The end was so good, that I really wish there were more of that in the rest of the game. You spend 3-4 hours with the same puzzle solving mechanics and then the last 30/45 minutes I feel like it starts doing really interesting mechanical things.

What did you think of the texts with friends? I wish they weren’t hidden behind donuts, but I thought that was an interesting way of giving us more of J.J.'s situation outside of the primary thrust of the plot.

I’m not totally clear on what the 100 years later thing was going for (I have some guesses, but I assumed it was a thing that didn’t apply to me) so I’m glad that resonated for you.


#13

I finished the game yesterday and i actually shed a tear (this is something very rare for me, especially since it wasn’t something “in everyday life”)
I can understand that some people might get turned of by the gore but i personally didn’t have that much of a problem with it since it visually was not that bad and the animations get repeated so much that i got kind of bored by them.
The ending also recontextualizes it in a way that i found satisfying.

I have to say though that I’m really sad that the game has not gotten more attention. Especially from sites such as Waypoint when they are in the forefront of asking for good queer games and this game definitly did that for me atleast.

The Missing will probably be pretty high on my GOTY-list (might even be #1 although it has some major problems) and i really hope more people will play it.


#14

I’m really surprised that Waypoint hasn’t covered it at all (I guess they did do a marathon stream recently, so maybe they will sometime this week). I’d be more interested to hear about this game than Red Dead (though I don’t know how everyone else feels about that).

I actually think it’s a bit of a problem that the animations are so repetitive because it DOES really get boring. About 2 hours in I felt myself just pushing through it for the story stuff, but the animation were really long and I would get really annoyed. Especially with the gravity switch sections because J.J. trips every 2 steps.


#15

Does anyone know if this is coming to Europe at any point? I can’t find a listing for it on the eshop and I don’t know if that’s a rating issue or just a delay.


#16

I played it on PS4 and im from Europe so it is atleast there. But you want to buy it on the Switch then right? I had some problems with finding the game on the Playstation Store and there seems to have been some problems around that for most people. Double check and maybe go on SWERYs twitter or anything like that to find info perhaps?


#17

Hah! Good tip, just saw this:


#18

For someone looking for a good discussion of the way The Missing’s mechanics interact with its story, I’d check out this review (warning for spoilers).

As far as my own feelings, a lot of which are mirrored in that review, I adore this game. It’s one of my favorite of the year, easily, and probably gonna be my #1. It’s gonna stick with me for a long long time. It does more than just competently handle its subject matter. It tackles it with an honesty and sensitivity that don’t expect from almost anyone, let alone someone who’s already done it badly in previous work. I was interested in it as a unique albeit gruesome puzzle game about a girl looking for her friend, but had I known it was actually about a trans woman coming to terms with her identity, represented through gruesome maiming and dismemberment, I would’ve probably braced for the worst.

And yet it, in my opinion, absolutely nailed it. The injury mechanic wound up being an extremely potent and even necessary metaphor for JJ’s struggles as a trans woman, and honestly the struggles of anyone who is mistreated because of their identity. The extreme violence is representative not just of the pain that she has already experienced, but the pain she experiences every day, and the pain she’ll have to live with likely for the rest of her life. As stated earlier in the thread, JJ barely makes mention of what’s happening to her, but it’s because she’s growing used to it. It’s background noise for her, as painful as it is, and as I progressed through the game, that’s how I ended up feeling about the violence eventually as well. The first time you get side eyed in public, or called a slur, or anything like that, it hurts like hell. It sucks shit. It sticks with you. But the more it happens gradually you get tired of it. You get used to it. It’s just a thing that happens. Still hurts like hell but you deal.

And what The Missing does is mirror that through the gameplay. At a certain point in the game the extreme violence and gross sounds and visuals weren’t getting to me. I’d joke about what JJ would do for a donut. But that’s how it is. Just the act of going out for a snack can feel hellish, but when it’s your day to day it’s just something that you gotta do, maybe something you can joke about to a friend who relates. You gotta lose that arm if you’re gonna get through the day. But it’s okay, you’ll pull yourself together and keep going like you always do. The actual game over deaths happen when you take damage when you’re only a head, and when you’re caught by the hands while fleeing from the hairshrieker. For the former, it’s representative of the way you need to know your limits as a person and manage the pain you go through. And the latter, with the hairshrieker representing JJ’s self-hate and suicidal thoughts, is not succumbing to those things.

The finale of the game has JJ not just accepting herself, but accepting the pain that’s become a part of her life, and learning how to handle it. She has something to live for and won’t let those obstacles stop her. But it doesn’t go away.

The thing I’m most interested to see more thoughts on are how the late game revelations are handled and the portrayal of JJ in the end, and something that unlocks after you beat it. I personally adore how it handles those things but this post is long enough as it is.


#19

Oh wow. That’s very interesting. Thanks for sharing. I hadn’t fully considered that!


#20

Final note. I just got all the donuts in the game and lmfao this is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. The final unlockables have emotionally floored me and I’m just completely in love with it