Reviews

Unusual Findings review — Teenagers, aliens, and the 80s combine for a charming and often hilarious point-and-click adventure

The point-and-click adventure has seen somewhat of a renaissance lately, with the prodigal Monkey Island returning and countless other charming indie titles which have been released throughout the past few years. As a huge fan of the genre, I am delighted that point-and-click adventures are getting their much-deserved resurgence and thankfully I can report that Unusual Findings, a retro inspired point-and-click mystery set during the 80s, is a fantastic addition that both pays homage to those games that came before while also providing a unique experience all its own.

Unusual Findings is set around three teenage boys on a quest to unscramble adult television channels, but instead end up becoming entwined in a war between aliens. To say more would spoil the story, but the usual cast of 80s characters are all here: the jock, the nerd, the wannabe tough guy, and the actual tough guy – a very Schwarzenegger type that takes the boys under his rough-edged wings. Unusual Findings works because it never takes itself seriously. Despite the gravity of the situation, the boys still find time to get into trouble, make fools of themselves, strike out with the girls they meet along the way, and lament the fact that they never got to see their unscrambled adult channels.

In Unusual Findings, pop culture references abound, with plenty of subtle nods to the movies and video games of the time thrown in at every opportunity, a surefire way to trigger nostalgia for a time long passed in many players. The entire story is handled very tongue-in-cheek, with the characters often making fun of the gameplay process, continuously calling out the fact that your character is constantly commenting on and touching every item they run into. It is refreshing for a point-and-click to essentially make fun of its own mechanics and subtlety mock the player for their inquisitiveness, while also providing pertinent information for progression.

But be inquisitive you must since, as any point-and-click lover knows, the only way to solve the puzzles presented is to check out everything you come across. This is made easy in Unusual Findings as simply pressing up on the d-pad will highlight every interactive item in an area. You are then given three choices, to either look at the item, speak to it, or touch/pick it up. It’s best to try all three options on everything as the snarky comments and back and forth between the characters will normally steer you in the right direction or provide a hint that will become useful in the future, while also often being quite funny. As with most games of this genre, the puzzles can be quite tricky, but thoroughly exploring will inevitably lead you to the information needed to progress.

As for progression, I was happy to realize that the game isn’t fully linear, rather it provides multiple ways to solve puzzles based around your dialogue choices and the actions you perform, along with allowing you to choose your next location via an overworld map. This adds a layer of replayability not often present in point-and-clicks and was much appreciated. Adding to the replayability is a total of 18 optional puzzles to uncover and three extremely different endings.

The game is broken down into distinct areas, with each having an overworld map which allows you to choose where to go next. While the story may provide hints as to the correct direction to head, you are welcome to explore the other areas first – and explore I did. I made a point to scour each area completely, checking out all items and picking up what I could, before progressing the story. This led to me having the tools and knowledge necessary to quickly grasp where to head when the story did require me to progress. I highly recommend taking your time and exploring each area rather than rushing through the story as while many of the dialogue options or items found serve no practical story use, they help to bring this fantastic world alive and flesh out the quirky cast of characters through hilarious exchanges.

As expected from a point-and-click game, puzzles can be hard to decipher, but unlike Unusual Findings’ 80s counterparts, they are rarely illogical. If you come across a puzzle, the answer is almost always available to you, you just need to read the right notes, check out the right items, or trigger the right dialogue choices. Taking your time and exploring will provide you with all that is needed to progress, rather than forcing the player to conduct wild experiments or combine illogical items. This prevents the game from ever becoming tedious and helps to maintain its sense of urgency, while still providing a challenge.

Unusual Findings oozes with retro charm, featuring a licensed soundtrack chock full of many of the 80s top hits, and a pixelated graphical style that looks plucked straight from the heyday of the genre. The game is fully voice acted, and is well done, although there is a slight delay between sentences during exchanges. While this may go along with the retro aesthetic and adhering to point-and-click games of the past, it is slightly off-putting in the modern age. Still, it’s not long enough to cause any real issues and dialogue does simultaneously appear on the screen, so you can read and then skip the voice over if you are so inclined.

Most players can expect somewhere between five to ten hours with Unusual Findings during a first playthrough, depending on how quick you are to grasp puzzle solutions and how much exploring and optional puzzle solving you complete. Quite a few more hours can be squeezed out by those hoping for all three endings, each of which does alter the entire way the third act plays out, thus providing more than enough reason to unlock them.

Sure, I may be biased due to my love of the genre, but I had a great time with Unusual Findings. It is a well-crafted, often hilarious, and occasionally challenging point-and-click adventure which also serves as a wonderful love letter to an era long gone. Most importantly, Unusual Findings is just a blast to play.

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Richard Allen is a freelance writer and contributing editor for various publications. While he enjoys modern gaming, he is a retro gamer at heart, having been raised on a steady diet of Contra, Mario, and Dragon's Lair.  Chat with him via @thricetheartist on Twitter.

90

Excellent

Unusual Findings

Review Guidelines

Unusual Findings is a charming and often hilarious sci-fi tale set during the 80s which oozes with a great retro-graphical style, good voice acting, and a fun story about teenage boys being, well, teenage boys - while also attempting to thwart an alien war. The point-and-click genre has seen a resurgence in recent years and Unusual Findings is certainly a worthwhile successor to the games it pays homage to.

Richard Allen

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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