If Found… follows two interconnected stories. The first is charting the impending disaster of a black hole that is threatening to destroy Earth and the attempt to stop it (obviously), told through dialogue between Control and the astronaut, Cassiopeia. The other branch of this story is set in Ireland in the 1990s and follows Kasio, a young person struggling with their identity and finding acceptance.
Finding themselves back in their hometown after university, having accepted during their time away that they are trans, Kasio struggles to relate with her religious and conservative family. This results in her finding solace with her friend, Colum and his boyfriend in an abandoned mansion. The player then follows their relationships, passions, and heartbreaks over a harsh Irish winter.
With this all taking place in a particular time and space, it adheres very strictly to this setting, using a lot of the vernacular and customs of Ireland. As these references might be lost on you, there’s a comprehensive glossary of explanations at key points throughout the story that can be dropped into again at any time in their own menu.
So, no worries if you don’t know your “craic” from your “gobsheen”, the devs have you covered for those and a myriad of other things besides.
As If Found… is a graphic novel, there isn’t much gameplay to speak of, aside from one huge narrative-leading device – the eraser. Throughout the story, the player will be erasing the scenes or words in front of them to progress, removing all history of what came before and even sometimes flooding the screen with colour or drowning it in darkness.
This is has the most emotional weight in the sections where you read the diary of Kasio, forcing the player to erase all of its contents and, in doing so, all memory of their life. Not only that, but before this you can erase scribbles and crosses to read things that had been previously crossed out. It’s a tremendously cathartic act, but one that comes with a bit of a gut-punch at times.
However, this gameplay element does come with a considerable setback in terms of the often esoteric nature of progression. Sometimes it isn’t clear what you need to erase next, or where you need to position your viewpoint to start the next story segment, leaving the player floundering as to how to progress. This could have been easily fixed with simple indicators, and this being missing feels really egregious.
Obviously though, the gameplay isn’t the strongest aspect of a visual novel, which falls to (obviously) the visuals. There are two distinct styles used, depending on which of the two narratives you’re currently experiencing, allowing the player to easy situate themselves in either 90s Ireland or with a space traveller, which is especially useful when these narratives intertwine.
During the story of Cassiopeia and Control in space, the palette is wild and psychedelic, with rough edges around dialogue and a distinctly more jarring score backing it. Whereas the story of Kasio has a more muted colour palette, with endearing hand-sketches of the characters and events from Kasio herself to tell her story, and music to match the situations.
If Found… is a short game, but what fills that time is a heart-wrenching story of trying to find your way through life and acceptance. Being LGBTQ myself, this is an important queer story, more so than the simple act of the representation it displays. This isn’t to say that representation isn’t important, but it needs to be authentic, and Kasio’s journey – whether real or not – feels it.