LGBTQ horror fans should check out The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories, a new puzzle platform game in which a lesbian woman struggling with her identity has to repeatedly tear her body apart to find her missing girlfriend on a treacherous island.
The plot may sound like a grisly misogynist fantasy, but its twists reveal a surprising psychological depth and thematic coherence that will resonate with some queer gamers.
The game’s first screen announces, “This game was made with the belief that nobody is wrong for being what they are.” Its second screen then warns players of its extreme violence, sexual topics and depictions of suicide — intriguing.
In the game, you play J.J. Macfield, a young woman camping with her girlfriend Emily on Memoria Island, a remote island off the coast of Maine. After a lovely night together by the campfire, J.J. awakens to find Emily missing in a terrible storm.
J.J. begins searching, only to discover that Emily is being chased by a violent supernatural giantess. But as J.J. continues exploring, she’s accidentally struck by lightning, killed and then brought back to life by a lab coat-wearing moose. (Yes, really.)
Thus starts the game’s surrealist elements.
For the remainder of the game, J.J. has the power to willfully injure herself on the landscape’s many dangers — complete with stomach-churning sound effects — using her detached body parts as projectiles and counterweights to help overcome the game’s obstacles. She can easily regenerate, but if she injures a stray limb, it’ll disappear completely, severely impeding her mobility.
As you move J.J. through the nightmarish landscape, she collects donuts which unlock text messages on her phone. These chat messages between J.J. and her mom, her friends and a professor eventually explain the backstory and how J.J. ended up on a remote island chasing a demon giantess.
That’s all we can say without ruining its mysteries. But the game only takes about 5 hours to beat, and some fans might not appreciate its male-gazey treatment by developers who may not be LGBTQ. But other queer gamers will definitely relate to the its psychological themes of alienation, danger and self-harm.
After all, many of us have felt alone (and even prone to self-harm) while navigating a dangerous world that seeks to separate us from ourselves and those we love.
The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories simply transforms that experience into a horror game that explores how willing we are to tear ourselves apart while struggling towards a life we love.