There’s just not enough games about good, old-fashioned plagues these days. Proper plagues, not zombie/vampire/werewolf mutations in disguise. Admittedly, when I volunteered to review Unforeseen Incidents, by Application Systems Heidelberg and Backwoods Entertainment, I didn’t know it was about a plague, but still. It piqued my interest.
The plot of Unforeseen Incidents follows handyman Harper Pendrell. Early on, he's accidentally sucked into a massive conspiracy surrounding a continuing deadly plague outbreak in the area. The poor guy ends up stumbling across a dying girl who gives him a message to pass on to a local reporter, and everything spirals out from there. Harper, along with the reporter Helliwell, and Harper’s friend Professor MacBride, end up investigating the conspiracy surrounding the outbreak of plague and trying to find a cure for the seemingly incurable. As plots go, it’s not particularly original, but the game is witty and well written. Plus, it gets points for being the first adventure game I’ve ever come across to be smart enough to arm its protagonist with a Swiss army knife, here called a multi-tool.
Unforeseen Incidents’ smart writing is one of the strongest points of the game. The pop culture references were one of my favorite parts. Harper’s smart aleck remarks include allusions to everything from the X-Files to a (very inappropriately placed) Monkey Island reference. The mystery is well-written, it keeps you guessing without being completely in the dark. It also avoids a common pratfall of mystery games, where they assume the player is an absolute codswallop who can't tell a suspect from a spoon. Unforeseen Incidents keeps a decent gauge on the player's handle of the plot the whole time. While it doesn't tread any new, groundbreaking mystery plague territory, it's enough that it carries itself out competently.
Harper is a fun character to follow on his journey, even after the immediate hook of having his multi-tool. He’s a sort of everyman handyman in his 20s, but with enough unique qualities that stop him from falling into the giant bucket of “Average Joe Game Protagonists in Weird Situations”. He’s resourceful and witty, without being completely snarky. Despite a funny exterior, Harper definitely has some issues below the surface to do with the death of his mother. The game makes this apparent at the start and touches on in a few points. It doesn't ever fully address it though, which ends up as my only criticism of the story.
That honor goes to another main character, reporter Jane Helliwell. Helliwell is the smart, sharp one of the cast, curious to a fault and just as determined. She and Professor MacBride are the ones who insist on seeing this incident through to the end, even when Harper would rather call the Coast Guard or someone else with authority. She also doesn’t hesitate to call Harper out when he starts talking to himself, describing various objects in their surroundings.
Professor MacBride and Ranger Jervis round out the quirky main cast. MacBride at first seems like a cheap Doc Brown knock-off. He slowly develops through the game, always intent on finding a cure for the plague. Ranger Jervis is a wayward park ranger who plays a little rough with Harper, but her heart is in the right place. With the protectiveness of a mama grizzly and the stubbornness of a mule, she's determined to keep her forest safe. Memorable side character mentions go to Cardero, the kooky, reclusive artist, and Leroy, the local junkyard owner, operator, and enthusiast.
The visual style of Unforeseen Incidents is one of the first things that attracted me to the game. It’s best described as a mash-up of Quentin Blake with shades of Graham Annable and the attention to detail and angularity of character models that Brett Helquist possesses. It’s interesting and everything looks slightly off-kilter, which is immensely appropriate for the setting and tone of the story. Most of the color palette is muted and darker tones, with magentas, purples, and blues dominating the backdrop. The animation quality is fairly good, though the character models walk at the exact same speed whether there’s something urgent going on or not. This can end up being a jarring experience at points.
When trying to save the world, it's surprising how many puzzles you encounter. Some involve your inventory and some are circuitry puzzles where you need to hook up an energy source to multiple places. Some are logic puzzles where you need to use clues to figure out a solution. As previously mentioned, Harper is a fairly useful handyman, a fact frequently brought up as a plot point. Though several puzzles do involve him fixing things, things never get into niggling, realistic details. You'll never need to change a blown out radio part or solder electronics. You just click and Harper does the heavy lifting.
Few of the puzzles are particularly difficult, but there isn’t a hint button available. Since that's the case, you'll have to do at least a little bit of thinking yourself. The one puzzle that I will say was unfair was early in the game. It actually involved moving Harper in a very specific pattern to avoid detection. It was frustrating and annoyingly specific. It's also bizarrely out of place, as there are no other similar puzzles before or after it.
Despite the gloomy subject matter, Unforeseen Incidents is a comedy from start to finish. While it's not on the level of supernatural weirdness of something like Stranger Things, it's definitely up the same alley. So, if you're looking for an off-beat adventure game with some interesting twists and turns, see what you think of Unforeseen Incidents.
TechRaptor reviewed Unforeseen Incidents on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available for Mac and Linux.
Unforeseen Incidents is a smart, well-written adventure game that keeps you hooked from start to finish.
- Fun, Stylized Art
- Compelling Story
- Sharp Writing
- No Hint Button
- Doesn't Fully Explore Interesting Character Points