Hidetaka Suehiro is a very busy man. For the past several weeks, Suehiro, who we all know as Swery, has been flying across oceans promoting the first title from his White Owls studio. It’s called The Missing, though the official title is the much longer The Missing: J.J. MacField and the Island of Memories, and it’s a puzzle platformer set to release worldwide later this month. It’s his first game in four years, a welcomed return to the industry after D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die. While review copies are already in the hands of the press, I got a chance to sit down with Swery in San Francisco at the end of September and test out this morbid new game one last time before launch.

The build was the same found at PAX West where I first tried it back in August. During that playtest session, I was able to see three of the four levels in the demo. This final pre-release hands-on gave me an opportunity to try out the level I missed. The stage, set in a graveyard, features an eclectic mix of puzzles and enemies that do well to showcase the type of variety the idea at the center of the game has to offer.

J.J. MacField is, with some limitations, immortal. Any damage done to her will just knock off a part of her body, which is used to solve the variety of puzzles found in each stage. She can get all the way down to a head and still keep going, but any damage after that means death. The graveyard stage has a few head-only areas, but the big gimmick of the level are the open graves and fire. Bodies are strewn about J.J.’s path and thick, wooden gates block her progression. Because I can’t open or crawl through these big wooden blockades, my only choice is to burn those mothers down using J.J.’s body as the match.

As I played through this level, I recorded my conversation with Swery and his translator and going back and listening to it is a bit unnerving because of J.J.’s constant screaming as her body is kindled. When I first heard her back at PAX, or watched as her body rag-dolled across the stage after playing chicken with a wrecking ball, I laughed. It was funny. Part of it still is, but the joke becomes more and more serious with every gruesome injury she endures. Trying to get people to take this often absurd premise seriously has been a goal for Swery since he started showing the game off at conventions and online.

We talk with Swery about The Missing, The Good Life, and a Suda51 collaboration screenshot

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We talk with Swery about The Missing, The Good Life, and a Suda51 collaboration