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The Missing is a platformer that’s all about mutilating yourself to survive

Swery and White Owls show off their strange new adventure at Tokyo Game Show

The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories
White Owls/Arc System Works
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Deadly Premonition and The Good Life creator Hidetaka “Swery” Suehiro’s next project is a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer in the vein of Prince of Persia and Inside — with a gruesome twist. It’s known as The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories, and it stars an immortal woman who must dismember, decapitate, burn and harm herself in a variety of other ways in order to uncover the mysteries of a strange island and rescue her friend.

Swery and publisher Arc System Works brought the game to Tokyo Game Show, where we played a trio of levels together. Swery said, through a translator, that players will have to overcome the idea that they might be harmed or killed by The Missing’s environmental dangers — things like spike traps, wrecking balls and a giant hair monster that wields a box cutter. Instead, players need to think about how to bypass traps and overcome obstacles by causing J.J., the game’s heroine, harm.

For example, in a demo level set in a waste facility area, a teetering wooden plank led to an exit, but walking across that platform to its far right end caused it to tilt downward, making the nearby platform edge inaccessible. In order to counterbalance the plank, I had to walk J.J. into a spike trap, ripping off her arms and legs at the opposite end of the plank, thereby weighing it down. She could then crawl, using a single remaining arm, to the end of the platform, finally progressing.

Fortunately for J.J., she can regenerate her limbs or heal broken bones and burns with the press of a button, returning her to full health.

In another level, one that felt heavily inspired by Inside’s gravity-flipping puzzle levels, I had to intentionally walk J.J. into a swinging wrecking ball. That giant steel ball knocked her back, shattering her femur and snapping her neck — and literally turned her world upside down. The rest of the level played out as a series of puzzles that involved J.J. (and items in the environment) falling up and down, gravity inverting and reverting, as wrecking balls broke the protagonist again and again.

The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories
White Owls/Arc System Works

The Missing may seem sadistic in its treatment of its hero, but the visual presentation of all that pain and gore feels rather antiseptic. J.J.’s a tiny, wiry little thing on screen, and her blood looks like a glowing white fluid. When she’s broken and twisted from being crushed, she appears in silhouette, lessening the over-the-top violence.

Swery and his studio White Owls are injecting some of the developer’s signature quirks into The Missing. Throughout the game, J.J. will have conversations over text message with her stuffed animal F.K. and encounter strange inhabitants on her journey through Memoria Island. She’ll also collect donuts scattered throughout the game. (Incidentally, Swery’s favorite donut shop is Top Pot Donuts in Seattle, and he prefers an old fashioned to any other flavor.)

J.J.’s mission in The Missing is to find her best friend, Emily, who disappears while the pair on a camping trip in Memoria. It’s a simple set up for what appears to be a very strange game that feels steeped in Swery’s peculiar sense of style.

The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories is out soon: Oct. 11. The game is coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.

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