Adventure Gamers Awards
One element that some players may find less welcome is a stealth/action segment towards the end of the story’s first act. Here hazmat-suited health workers moving through Yelltown need to be avoided. You must time your movements appropriately to sneak through the paths the workers follow. Getting caught causes the sequence to restart from the beginning after a short cinematic. Fortunately, this section isn’t very long and the game gives you a fair amount of leeway in making it past the patrollers.
An odd minigame comes between each of the game’s five acts. For some reason, at these points you must complete a kind of hacking puzzle in which several file folders are shown on a computer display. A beam of light enters from one side of the display and can be routed around using little symbols such as corners and T intersections that are scattered about the screen. You must rotate these symbols so that the beam of light travels and splits around the playing field in order to connect to all of the folders. These puzzles get progressively more challenging as the game goes on, although they have no connection to the events of the overall story as far as I can tell. While Harper’s a handyman he isn’t a hacker, so it’s unclear even as to whom you’re playing at these times. They’re fun and challenging diversions in their own right, but their inclusion seems to be to a substitute for loading screens rather than as an integrated part of the narrative.
There’s a good variety of activities in Unforeseen Incidents and – weird hacking bits aside – most of the time you will have multiple puzzles ongoing. Given the depth and complexity of some of the objectives, this is a really welcome feature as it provides you the opportunity to switch what you’re working on if you get stuck. I never found myself getting completely bogged down in my 12 hours of play time, but it was useful to clear my thoughts on one puzzle by switching to another from time to time. An exception to this occurs when you reach the hidden cult headquarters. Here the game becomes very linear and although there are a fair number of rooms in the secret base, there isn’t much to do in them. This particular stretch occurs near the end of the game and feels especially empty given how much there is to do in the earlier acts.
I found the ending itself was also a little disappointing after how well the rest of the experience had been executed. Here the many clichés begin piling up as the villains reveal the details of their plot. It’s not quite accurate to say that the ending is rushed, as it does wrap up all of the major story threads in a reasonable fashion. However, exposition comes thick and fast, with a few moments that go for genuine emotion and some scenes that are meant to ratchet up the tension, all capped off with a touch of light comedy. It’s a lot of stuff all at once that causes the tone to swing far too rapidly. The result is that most of the climactic moments don’t land with the impact that they really should. It’s not a bad ending, but it’s not a great one either.
What is great is the voice acting. Unforeseen Incidents has a wide array of characters and even the bit parts have been appropriately looked after. The voices have all been matched well to the character designs, and whether it’s the serious Ranger Jervis, the sarcastic Helliwell, a sweet roadside restaurant owner or an insecure cultist, they all leave an impression that lasts longer than their time on screen. Of particular note is Harper himself. Listening to his comments is a lot of fun as his voice gets shriller when he panics and deepens when he’s trying to sound manly. This isn’t a comedic game but Harper has a nice sense of humour about things, even when he’s frightened or angry.
The rest of the audio is quite good as well. Musically the game provides different instrumental pieces as you move between locations. Just as the visuals vary by locale, so too does the score, complementing the atmosphere of each area. Sound effects suitable to what you are doing abound throughout. While repairing a beat-up car, various clunks, clanks, and rattles echo around you as you pull out and replace damaged and missing parts. Or you may hear the whine of a hover drone as it’s used to move parcels about on a shipping dock. Even the little details have been accounted for, with Harper’s footsteps crunching across gravel, clicking on pavement, or sighing through grass.
It’s not possible to get stuck in a dead end or die in your travels. Even so, the game boasts a full save system, allowing you to save almost anywhere except during conversation. Ironically, it is a bit of a pity that you can’t save in these situations as there are a few dialog options you can choose that make minor differences later on. For example, when you run into the infected woman early on, you can choose to call in the medical authorities over her protests or not. If you obey her wishes then one of Harper’s neighbours calls the medics instead, so the story continues on its preset course. However, some characters you talk to may be impressed if you called for help or less so if you did not. Or they may approve of you obeying her wishes and are angered if you went against what she wanted.
While a reluctant hero who gets swept into events propelling him towards saving the world is just the tip of the cliché iceberg, Unforeseen Incidents’ excellent visual, audio, and puzzle presentation elevates it above a been-there-done-that experience. The memorable characters are well voiced, and I would welcome the opportunity to spend more time with Harper Pendrell. Overall, I found this to be a fun and entertaining journey and would recommend it to anyone looking for a meaty adventure with puzzles that are just the right level of challenging.