Unforeseen Incidents is the best point and click adventure I’ve ever played.
Admittedly, I haven’t played many modern examples of the genre, with The Long Reach being a recent exception, but I grew up in the golden era of point and clicks, playing amazing games like Beneath a Steel Sky and Day of the Tentacle. I love these classic games, but many of them haven’t aged particularly well – my recent playthroughs of The Secret of Monkey Island and Broken Sword, for example, left me frustrated and a bit disappointed.
Unforeseen Incidents, on the other hand, avoids many of the most common flaws of the genre, and it had me hooked right until the end. I love almost everything about this game. But before I start explaining why it’s so good, I have an apology to make.
I received a review key for Unforeseen Incidents just before it was released back in May 2018, and even though it was one of my top picks from EGX Rezzed, I didn’t get around to playing it until August. The curse of the PC struck again – as I said in my Not A Review of Hand of Fate 2, I struggle to bring myself to play games on my laptop because it’s my work machine, and I can’t wait to switch the damn thing off at the end of a long working day. But I had a day off last week, so I finally, reluctantly pulled my laptop into bed and gave Unforeseen Incidents a go – and I’m very sorry I waited this long because it’s bloody great.
The game sees workshy handyman Harper Pendrell encountering a woman infected with the fatal Yelltown Fever, a disease that’s spreading through his home town. As hazard-suit-clad agents close in on her, she begs Harper to deliver a cryptic note to a journalist named Helliwell – and so starts a riveting journey into a captivating conspiracy. And I was gripped – the story ping pongs from one revelation to the next, and it kept me glued to my computer over the next few days.
To solve the mystery, you need to do the usual point and click trick of finding items and then using and combining them in certain ways – and Unforeseen Incidents makes this effortless. A quick tap of the space bar highlights all interactive objects in a location, and using items is a simple job of dragging them from the pop-up inventory at the top of the screen onto either an object or another item. Gone are the days of pixel hunting and wondering whether you need to use, combine, push, pull, examine or, I don’t know, jiggle an item. Hoorah!
There’s also very little of what Rob Covell describes as ‘moon logic’ over on I Played The Game, also known as puzzles where you have to “guess what the developer was thinking”. The puzzles in Unforeseen Incidents are mostly based on logical deduction or thorough research, like studying the pages of a herb book to find the right one to use, or gleaning clues from NPCs to work out a solution. And the very best ones make you feel like a genius for solving them. There was a particularly good one where I had to work out the log-in details for a computer, and I had a big smug grin on my face when I eventually got the answer through some exhaustive deduction.
And what’s more, Unforeseen Incidents looks utterly wonderful. I think I’m in love with the developer Backwoods’ art style – all wandering lines and exaggerated features. Harper has stick thin legs and a bizarre neck that’s thicker than his head, but it all just works so well. And the backgrounds! It was a sheer joy to discover each new screen and just drink in the gorgeous artwork. I haven’t felt like this in a point and click game since playing Beneath a Steel Sky back on the Amiga, lapping up every pixel of Dave Gibbons’ beautiful backdrops. I would seriously frame any of the screens from Unforeseen Incidents and hang them on my wall.
The music is equally as good – wonderful, evocative tunes that really suit the atmosphere of each location. There’s a strong Twin Peaks musical vibe to be found – a connection that’s cheekily reinforced with a throwaway nod to the series about halfway through that I won’t spoil here. And the voice acting! So, so good. It’s not often that I find myself thinking “that video game voice actor is really great”, but I was doing just that throughout.
And it’s funny, to boot. Harper has an arsenal of quips and bon mots ready to unleash whenever you click on an object, and they always put a smile on my face. Like when you click on the sign at the fancy yacht harbour and he intones: “The sign says ‘Port Nicola Yacht Club, no poor people allowed’… Just kidding”. There are some wry observations about things like cafe culture and fan stereotypes, and generally it’s just a joy to be in the company of Harper as he continues his journey.
Unforeseen Incidents isn’t perfect by any means. I encountered a bug near the end where something meant I should have died but I didn’t, and my only option was to continue from a previous save. And speaking of dying, there are at least two points where you can cark it – and generally I’m not a fan of point and clicks that force death upon the player. But at least the game has the decency to restart you immediately in the same place, so I’ll forgive it. The walking animation for a few of the characters is also bizarre, and I didn’t like the way the graphics go a bit blurry when it zooms in on the characters during conversations. And there was one puzzle I had to look up the solution for that involved pulling a lever to change something several screens away – the signposting for that one could have been a bit better. But frankly these are minor quibbles over an otherwise fantastic game.
If you’re a point and click adventure fan, Unforeseen Incidents is a must buy – and if you’re new to the genre, it’s a brilliant place to start.
Unforeseen Incidents is available for PC and Mac. We reviewed the PC version.
Disclosure statement: Review code for Unforeseen Incidents was provided by Application Systems Heidelberg. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.