An absorbing point and click adventure with a distinctive art style, Unforeseen Incidents finds a natural new home on the Nintendo Switch. The Finger Guns Review.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that a member of the Unforeseen Incidents development team at Backwoods Entertainment or Application Systems Heidelberg was named “Nostradamus”. Originally released in May 2018, this game is set during an epidemic where most people are staying indoors to avoid catching a mysterious illness. Less than a year later… well, unless you’ve been in a coma for 2 years, you know what happened. Some spookily accurate, uncomfortable symmetry with real world events aside, Unforeseen Incidents is a thoroughly entertaining point and click adventure that’s only marred by a few technical hiccups and one or two puzzles that find themselves lost in the weeds.
In Unforeseen Incidents, we find ourselves in the comfortable shoes of small town handyman Harper Pendrell. After helping his scientist friend-turned-father-figure Professor McBride with a laptop malfunction, Harper stumbles across a dying woman in the street. This chance meeting embroils Harper and a few cohorts in the mystery surrounding the origins of the dreaded ‘Yelltown Fever’. A shady health organisation, brain washed fanatics and a deadly virus that’s spreading unabated stand between the protagonist and the truth. As each layer of the mystery is peeled back, it becomes apparent that Harper might be the only person who can save the entirety world from a massive conspiracy.
Piecing It Together
Played out over a 12 hour play time, separated into 4 chapters each of which is set in a new location, the story of Unforeseen Incidents is an engrossing one. The narrative is structured in a way that revelations come slowly, often raising more questions than they answer. Each chapter is bookended by a set-up and a conclusion, 3 of which have a cliff-hanger. This gives the game an investigative tone that dives the player on. Compared to most point and click adventures made in the classical sense (and that is certainly what Unforeseen Incidents is), the story is a well crafted one. It’s not breaking any new ground in gaming but there’s enough twists and turns to keep you engaged until the credits roll.
That’s predominantly driven by a colourful but believable cast of characters, brought to life via some great voice acting. Harper Pendrell makes for an interesting lead character. He’s quirky, often talking to himself (laying out exposition through the 4th wall to the player in the process) but not in an overbearing, irritating way. The game is smart to allow the player to grown to know (and probably like) Harper over time by slowly revealing more of his personality and his past. Enabling this is a small but charismatic supporting cast, each of which has their own arc through the game and brings their own aspects to the investigation. Professor McBride, a long time friend to Pendrell, and Jane Helliwell, a reporter on the hunt for the scoop behind the origins of Yelltown Fever, act as guides through much the game. They vocalising what to do and sometimes how to do it.
If At First You Don’t Succeed…
That’s helpful because the puzzles that underpin the plot of Unforeseen Incidents can be quite in depth and tricky. While you’re aim is almost always clear, the solution can sometimes be a little harder to determine. More so than most in this genre, there’s a real need to pay attention to details. Small samples of text that can appear to be just flavour to a scene can have incredible importance. As it can sometimes be with point and click adventures, you might end up picking up all the items you can and experimenting with a bit of trial and error to find a solution. The nature of the beast, I guess.
There does feel like there’s a bit of unevenness to the puzzles at times. An example: in one chapter you’ll be using Harper’s trusty Multi-tool (a swiss army puzzle solution) to cut your way through a wire fence. Later, when you come across a similar fence blocking your path, it’s not possible to use the same solution. “I don’t want to cut that” Harper will chirp. There’s also a puzzle later on in the game where the solution feels almost sacrilege and criminal to perform. Without spoiling it, it requires a line of thinking that I think most point and click games tend to avoid. Some players might not even bat an eye lid at this but I was quite perplexed by the obstacle in my way until I randomly tried something and it worked. I have to give the game points for ingenuity, but it’ll certainly have some long time point and click players scratching their heads (or reaching for a guide).
The game uses an intuitive twist on the traditional inventory heavy point and click system to accommodate all of this. Any object of interactivity will turn the on-screen cursor from an X into a dot. Click on them and Harper will describe it, interact with it or pick it up. Collected items are stored in an inventory bar which can be called down with the click of a button. This takes a lot of the onerous work out of the point and clicking. There’s no “Talk to…” or “Open” here. It’s all just clicking.
…Just Click On Everything
Thankfully, no matter the way you like to point and click, Unforeseen Incidents has you covered. Unlike a lot of games that get ported to the Switch after an initial release elsewhere, this game makes full use of the Switch’s input methods. The left thumb stuck moves Harper around the screen and the right stick will move to allow the whole pointing and clicking aspect. However, If you prefer a mouse based setup, you can simply click on the touchscreen where you want him to go or on what you want him to interact with. There’s a pretty inventive use of the shoulder buttons too – tapping these moves the cursor instantly to the next interactive spot on the screen in that direction. This is a really intuitive and useful way to get around screens quickly. I must applaud this port for taking advantage of the unique features that the Switch offers. Combining them together certainly makes this game as accessible as it is when played with a mouse on PC.
The distinctive comic book art style of Unforeseen Incidents really pops on the Switch’s screen too. This game has some really eye catching, hand painted vistas to explore. Even when its a simple, functional location, there’s a peculiar charm to it all. On the other hand, the character models are less impressive, especially when the game zooms in on them, and some of the walking animation looks very stiff. Overall though, I’d say this is a pretty, if not traditionally ‘pretty’, game.
It’s not perfect though. Twice during the second chapter, the game simply stopped accepting any inputs. Both times, it was when trying to leave an area by click on a location on a map. Restarting the game fixed the issue and I was able to continue on without an issue.
Then there’s the loading times, which was an issue I had with PC version in 2018 too. I know this is a nit-pick, and I’ve probably been spoiled by the super fast SSDs these days, but it I feel compelled to mention it. A lot of the areas take 10 to 12 seconds to load each and every time you enter them. When you’re having to back track through certain areas to pick up stuff and try new things, this can start to grate. If you want a quick blast on Unforeseen Incidents, you might spend time you want to be playing looking at a blank, black screen.
Its issues do little to detract from a thoroughly entertaining game however. If you’re after a point and click adventure for your journey to work or sat on your couch, Unforeseen Incidents is a good choice. While it’s not going to be challenging the likes of Monkey Island or Broken Sword at the apex of this genre, it should be counted alongside the likes of Thimbleweed Park and Machinarium as one of the better point and click adventures on the Nintendo Switch.
Featuring a well crafted, mystery fuelled plot informed by an intriguing cast of characters, Unforeseen Incidents is a distinctive and engrossing point and click adventure. You can tell a lot of work has gone in to making the Nintendo Switch version of this title and it pays off in a fluid, accessible experience. A few foibles here and there are the only blemishes on an otherwise very enjoyable game.
Unforeseen Incidence is available now on Nintendo Switch (review version) and PC.
Developer: Backwoods Entertainment / Application Systems Heidelberg
Publisher: Application Systems Heidelberg
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
If you enjoyed this article or any more of our content, please consider our Patreon.