The 80s were a wonderful time. Bollocks. Yes, there were the highs, but no internet, no streaming, and lots of hairspray do not warrant this resurgence, but Stranger Things has seduced youngsters into thinking the 80s were so cool. The Unusual Findings vibe is thankfully an accurate one: bike adventures, treehouses, arcades, and a quest to find porn.
The premise is exactly that: three best friends, Vinny, Nick and Tony, attempt to intercept a TV signal for an adult channel but uncover an alien invasion instead. This was generally what 80s movies were like, such as The Explorers (1985), Flight of the Navigator (1986), The Lost Boys (1987)… need we go on? Much like the superb Nightmare Frames, this point and click expertly bottles the film scene and pop culture, scattering references throughout in dialogue, movie posters, and achievement titles. It’s utter bliss. Even if the 90s were better…
The trio find that the adults won’t listen, nor can they be trusted (save for The Bull. That guy’s a legend), so they must find a way to unveil the shady dealings of a ‘research centre’, prevent the invasion, but more importantly, stay alive. With Vinny’s leadership, Tony’s brains, and Nick’s brawn (just don’t call him chicken), they have a chance for survival, but there’s going to be a lot of pointing and clicking, some backtracking, and plenty of in-jokes, arguably aimed at 80s veterans than Netflix surfers. Unless, of course, you remember blowing game cartridges to get them to work?
Unusual Findings Review (PC)
Like Epic Llama Games’ previous point and click outing (Darkestville Castle – scandalously priced on a Steam sale at the time of writing – snap it up if you don’t have it!), Unusual Findings is a comedy game, but it doesn’t overdo it. That’s subjective, but the in-jokes aren’t overwhelming, and repeat playthroughs will help you spot things you might have missed. Not that anyone needs a reason to replay a point and click adventure, there are multiple endings in the game based on dialogue choices. Get out your notebook, or be prepared to consult a walkthrough.
As it’s based in the 80s, the visual aesthetic is more on par with Maniac Mansion or Zak McKraken, only with streamlined controls. There are three verb wheel options, a link to the inventory, and an optional hotspot button to prevent any pixel hunting. The musical score is synth-like, and it’s not uncommon to leave a scene running while listening to the music and typing up a review. It’s very good.
Unusual Findings is a talkie, and the voice acting is very good for the most part, but sometimes shouty. At one point, I had left the speakers off and found the writing much wittier than the vocal delivery, but that shouldn’t encourage mute gaming as you’d miss the music and radioactive points of interest. Really, the voice acting is very good, but I appreciated the dialogue more when reading it.
Backtracking is common but reasonable, and though a handful of puzzles aren’t too obvious, it has a decent rhythm with few stumbling blocks. There were some scenes with a good deal of dialogue options that rely on trial by error such as playing a game to death to spot the patterns (a classic tactic we used to do back then, even now), and experimenting with dialogue – especially when it comes to selecting the appropriate line that’ll unlock one of the three endings. What is perhaps the worst part of the game is you can’t manually save it, so if you click the wrong dialogue, you’ll have to potentially start again.
Expect to play Unusual Findings at least three times to 100% it. While trophy hunting might not typically be enough incentive to ace a game, there are a couple of insights and epilogues that make it worthwhile. And, to be fair, replaying the game won’t take as long and as the script is so funny, it’s not out of the ordinary to jump back in immediately after finishing it, then starting the next playthrough. That’s pretty impressive.
With the multiple endings and memorabilia throughout (think Lucy Dreaming) Unusual Findings is a recommendation for any point and click fan. No doubt the target audience will have experienced the 80s at some point or grown up at the tail end of the decade to appreciate the references fully. Or maybe you like dressing up like Corey Feldman, hanging out in the arcades and shining your torch at girl’s windows? That being the case, check out this bodacious adventure and Dead Or Alive, you’ll be in for a treat.