It seems nuts considering the type of games that rule the hearts and minds (and wallets) of players in the contemporary gaming landscape, that there was a time when point-and-click games were the biggest thing on the planet.
Between LucasArts, Sierra and later Cyan Worlds, it felt like other games genres were fighting for air in the 90s – well, at least on PC. These days, though, point-and-click adventures feel like curios, throwbacks to a bygone age.
A lot of players have neither the patience nor the interest for them and as far as a lot of the Triple-A industry players are concerned the whole genre can rot in the dustbin of history since single player linear story-based games exist in a genre that “people don’t like as much today as they did five years ago or ten years ago.”
That’s bollocks, of course, and one only need cast an eye in the direction of Unavowed for proof of this. Developed and published by Wadjet Eye Games, this game should scratch the itch of anyone who has wanted to star in a Hellblazer comic.
The game opens with the player being exorcised. In short order they learn that they were possessed by a demon about a year ago, who used their body to do some rather horrific things. The folks who freed them from this predicament call themselves the Unavowed; imagine an Interpol that deals with crimes stemming from the supernatural and you get the idea. With the demon in their rearview and the player wanted for numerous crimes around New York City, they team up with the Unavowed to investigate some of the residual damage they caused and hopefully clear their name.
Penned by point-and-click game stalwart, Dave Gilbert (who worked on the likes of Technobabylon, Gemini Rue and the Blackwell series), Unavowed tells a rather gripping yarn about demonic mischief in the Big Apple packaged in a familiar format, while bundling in some RPG elements that wouldn’t look out of place in a BioWare classic.
The game offers the player choices right from the get-go, requiring them to not only pick a name and sex, but also a backstory (cop, bartender or actor) that has significant impact on some of the sections in the game in how players approach scenarios and how they play out. It also has an effect on how the player’s character interacts with other NPCs in the game, including their Unavowed companions.
It’s these urban occult warriors who provide both the best grist for the narrative mill and as well a neat wrinkle that pushes Unavowed beyond your average point-and-click adventure. On top of the fact that they’re a rather chatty and complex bunch, the different members in the Unavowed offer the player different approaches in each mission they embark on as players can only take two companions with them at a time. One of them, for example, is a half-Jinn named Mandana, who happens to be rather athletic and handy with a sword – select her and you’ll find she’s useful for getting items out of the player’s reach and crowbarring the odd door open. Another, Logan, is a Bestower, which means he can talk to ghosts; if you come across any wandering spirits he can communicate with them and glean clues. Leave either of them out of your party, and you lose their input in puzzle solving.
That having been said, Unavowed is constructed in such a way that all the missions can be solved no matter who the player takes along with them – they’ll just need to alter their approach here and there. In this way – by presenting puzzles that have multiple ways of solving them – Unavowed also manages to avoid the trap most point-and-click game fall into, in that they have little to sod all replay value. Not only that, but at certain points in the story, the game calls on the player to make some very difficult moral choices, which in turn will have an impact on how events later down the line play out.
For the most part, the puzzles in Unavowed hit a decent difficulty sweet spot in that they’re not too hard, but hard enough to make players feel smug once they’ve solved them. There are a couple that are insultingly easy, but at the other end of the scale, there aren’t any that fall into the moon logic category, which was partly responsible for players getting fed up with this genre in the first place.
Visually, Unavowed looks like something one would boot up on PC around 30 years ago. The palette is colourful enough and the portrait art is fantastic, but depending on each individual taste, the game’s presentation is either delightfully retro or archaic (I fall into the former camp). The score is atmospheric without being intrusive, and in certain parts – notably when the protagonist starts having flashbacks to the events that transpired while the demon was in control of them – it can get downright eerie.
Unavowed is something of a triumph. It looks gorgeous and tells a detailed and gripping story shot through with well-rounded characters and a few twists and turns along the way (none of which players will see coming). It also manages to successfully incorporate elements from other genres into a point-and-click adventure, and by doing so, offers players myriad approaches in how they tackle the game’s puzzles as well as a lot of replay value. Not bad for a game that looks like it stepped straight out of the 90s.
Last Updated: January 24, 2019