No one knows how the Yelltown Fever started. It’s a deadly plague, its symptoms harrowing. There’s the fever, then the coughing. Before long, the patient is bleeding from the eyes and mouth. Yelltown, the epicentre of the disease, has been quarantined by leading medical organisation, the Rancho Health Corporation. But local handyman, Harper Pendleton is suspicious. An infected woman entrusts Harper with a secret message before RHC employees drag her away.
The story works like it ought to. As is the case with puzzle/mystery style games, there’s a nice unfurling of the truth. Gradually there’s a peel back of all the lies and deception. It feels a bit stilted let’s be honest as it moves between its four 2-hour-or-so chapters. And as we will get to, this isn’t helped by the nature of the gameplay. But its undercut a bit by a few issues.
First off, the tone is a bit unstable. The standard tone is a nice juxtaposition: laidback characters crack jokes, but the setting and some talking points involve the epidemic of Yelltown Fever. At times it fully walks into the dorky humour. Other times it is quite a sombre, dark affair. As is the standard for this kind of issue (I’m looking at you 12-episode anime), the laidback comedy is thrown out of a moving car in the final act. The lights dim, stuff gets real, and a bit of the colour drains out of things. It’s just a bit odd I suppose to reconcile how wildly, the tone can shift at any point.
The other bit to consider is the reuse of locations. This being a smaller indie title, there are limited locations used in the game, which leads to a bit of a cyclical narrative at points. Most obvious is the first chapter, where the main character is pitched a great plan. At which point the protagonist must do all the preparations for it. No, not some, not quite a lot, ALL. It’s hard to not want to scream bloody murder at Harper’s mentor when he’s telling us to risk life and limb to sneak into a location that the mentor doesn’t even know where it BLOODY IS.
At the end of the day, I did finish Unforeseen Incidents top to tail. So I can say with all that insight that the narrative: hey it ain’t too shabby. I’ve seen better I’ve seen worse. I suppose the more important question is if players are ready to tackle the gameplay.
The real bone of contention for Unforeseen Incidents is the gameplay. It’s a pretty standard inventory puzzle affair: Talk to people, pick up stuff, rub the stuff on other stuff until progress happens. The problem is things get slowed down a bit. Now that isn’t necessarily always bad. Some puzzles require a bit of time to work out. There’s a seemingly impossible task, you stew on it, maybe you leave and come back to it with a fresh set of eyes. You eliminate possibilities until the answer presents itself. Those are some satisfying puzzles.
Less satisfying are the puzzles that took brute force to overcome. Simply put, there are various points where not only is there no clear solution, the puzzle itself is beyond the scope of the player. So many puzzles were along the line of I need to meet *a person*. I need to get the person to confess I just need *information of some kind*.
More concerning are the puzzles that are unintuitive. The most basic example: Harper is in a basement and has to fix a radio before he can leave. There is a radio and a cigarette box. I open the radio; I need to now find something metallic attach to the radio. So, I use the standard method, try rubbing the cigarette box with the only thing I have a multi-tool. But alas, pliers, knives, scissors, none can aid me. After using the multi-tool on basically anything I could lay my cursor on, I accidentally clicked on the cigarette box. Harper proceeded to remove a piece of foil from the box, thus exposing the solution.
Two issues worth noting. One, this game feels a bit unnecessarily chained to a single method of doing something that could easily have a few reasonable solutions. Two, this scene, despite being a few hours into the game, was the first time I even realised that you could simply click on an inventory item rather than click and drag for interactions. Basically, it feels like the game is still short a bit of polish. It feels like there are issues that don’t destroy the game, but it feels less user-friendly than I’d have liked.
Unforeseen Incident has a rather nice style to it having a sketchy hand drawn aesthetic to everything. The animations aren’t half-bad, though there are definitely a few hiccups, albeit ones that the developers seem aware of. Suffice to say, I can only hope all those minor issues have been taken care of by game’s launch. The music is sparse, but it fits rather well most of the time.
It’s fair to say Unforeseen Incidents can very much be hit or miss. It kind of comes down to how resilient you are with the gameplay. If you can tough it out, there are some neat little puzzles to be had. Otherwise, the story isn’t half bad—if mired by an inconsistent tone—and the gameplay at times slowing progress down to a crawl.
This guest post was brought to you by Sam Harkin (@sammydeedge)
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Image: Application Systems Heidelberg