The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 18.01.2019 1

Review for The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories on Nintendo Switch

The video game medium has become an art form that has generated a variety of creative personalities. Some of these auteurs are the likes of Hideo Kojima who has a penchant for Hollywood style story-telling, the human condition, with fourth-wall breaking elements and attention to detail. Suda Goichi is another notable game director who is known for his punk infused style of writing, lurid visuals, intense scenes of surreal violence, and obscure cult film homages. Yoko Taro will be remembered for his RPGs that emphasize on the bleakest scenarios, poetically tragic stories and existentialism. Then there is Hidetaka Suehiro (AKA Swery 65) who has always strived to be a cult game director, but never quite got his footing due to a history of his games typically being broken messes of ideas, bad acting, and poor execution. Swery is a man with a lot of heart and good intentions, but good intentions are what paves the way to hell - and with that, Cubed3 finds itself utterly lost in The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories.

A very common comparison that many fans of Swery will say that he is the "David Lynch" of video games when that could not be further from reality. It is very shallow to compare Swery to David Lynch, since there is no David Lynch of video games. A comparison like this suggests a complete misunderstanding of David Lynch and just because Deadly Premonition rips off Twin Peaks, only suggests that Swery is merely derivative.

With The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories, Swery finds himself basically taking many of the same plot elements from his most well-known cult hit. In fact Deadly Premonition, D4 and the currently in development Kickstarter project The Good Life, all centre on a woman who gets savagely murdered in the woods with a strong middle-Americana aesthetic. The Missing, is not deviating much from Swery's playbook.

Screenshot for The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories on Nintendo Switch

One thing is very apparent when playing The Missing and is that it looks and feels like all the worst aspects of a Swery game. For the uninitiated, that means it looks like a budget PlayStation 2 game at best, or an N64 game at worst. Character animations are sluggish, and snap into positions unnaturally, and on Switch the frame rate is sub-30fps, with many dropped frames. It can be inconsistent with some interesting visuals; like how the sky is rendered by using actual recorded footage of a sky which is a very creative and striking. Too bad how all the trees look really low-res and look like something a first year computer graphics artist would make.

This is not just with the background foliage, but most of the environments end up looking very cheap with only a few sparks of inspiration. Even the silly over-sized video game-y doughnuts end up looking more like large life-saver mints, and for some reason that spider-baby thing from Toy Story makes an appearance. The character models feel like they were outsourced by a more talented team of CG artists, since they stick out like a sore thumb when exploring this deluge of mediocrity that befouls even a low grade Zenith CRT display. When he worked at Access Games, Swery did prove he could deliver something with a cohesive art direction with D4. It is amazing how The Missing somehow manages to look worse and uglier than Deadly Premonition.

Screenshot for The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories on Nintendo Switch

It may not look like much, but the reason why anyone would play anything from Swery is not for his discerning eye for visual fidelity or polish. Some may say that the ugly graphics in his games are part of the experience... or make his games… "charming." What people want is quirky gameplay from a quirky game designer. With his own indie development studio, there is no excuse of meddling like when Microsoft terminated any hopes for a continuation of D4, or when publishers demanded Deadly Premonition to have broken Resident Evil 4 controls.

The Missing proves that White Owls Inc. can bungle even a simplistic puzzle platformer all by themselves. The puzzle-platformer genre will always be compelling and in the right hands, it can be mesmerizing. The Missing took a great idea of making self-mutilation into a game mechanic to solve puzzles and made it so boring. Remember Wario Land 3? Remember how Wario was able to get inflicted with various kinds of statuses depending how he got hurt and how each affliction was sort of a power-up? That is this game but with worse controls and some instances of egregious unintuitive puzzle design that will betray the logical thinking of any human with a working brain.

Screenshot for The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories on Nintendo Switch

White Owls Inc. did manage to add a few new wrinkles to this kind of game in the form of dismemberment that creates utility for J.J.'s severed limbs. Rolling around as a severed head is darkly amusing even if making it jump comes with a nasty delay. Other than that, there is just too many derivative instances from Wario Land 3 to notice. Even on its own merits, this kind of bizarre dark comedic element betrays the core theme of The Missing's twist-ending.

Even with the laughably ham-fisted and schmaltzy opening message from the director, it is hard to take any of this seriously. Maybe this is the result of the director just going through the motions at this point and is just desperately trying to give people another Deadly Premonition. The issue is that game was the result of art meeting adversity. The Missing has no adversity because Swery had complete control.

Screenshot for The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Even the most hardcore Swery fans will be put off by how sloppy and tedious The Missing is. Much of the appeal of past Swery games was interacting with interesting and colourful personalities. The Missing has none, unless reading text messages counts, and even then the writing is the same movie-referencing material from past games from this director, and its interrupting of the flow of action. The Nintendo Switch has so many better options for puzzle-platformer adventure games - Limbo, Inside, Flashback or Another World, to name a few. The mediocrity of The Missing might have been a bit more tolerable if it weren't such a janky and busted mess. Swery is not the David Lynch of video games; at best he is Ed Wood or a dime store Suda Goichi.

Developer

White Owls

Publisher

Arc System Works

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Siegfried (guest) 15.07.2021#1

Sorry, but this review is very unproffesional and immature. It is clear right from the first sentence of the review that the writer has some sort of a childish grudge against the game's director, and it overshadowed his entire experience. His complaints about the game are exaggerated and unproportional, and he ommited completely the game's narrative.
Sorry again Mr. Robert Lichi, but that review was painful to read.

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