The traditional point-and-click adventure, when viewed through the lens of the history of interactive entertainment, was a key proponent in bringing rich character-driven stories to the realm of videogames. During the genre’s peak influential period of the late 1980s and early 1990s its own sub-genres could be split into the same movie categories found at a VHS rental store at the time. Drama, Comedy, Action, Horror, Science Fiction, and others. Unavowed, the new point-and-click adventure from the talented Wadjet Eye Games and Dave Gilbert, tells a serious and often grim supernatural story set in New York City.
This adventure contains Adult Themes, Supernatural Horror, and Violence.
Filled with rich characters and wonderful set pieces, Unavowed surprisingly also includes design elements one might associate with a BioWare RPG like Dragon Age. This results in character creation that involves playing through one of several backstories as either a male or female protagonist - in addition to recruiting new companions and selecting a small party to take with you as you investigate strange cases of the supernatural occurring throughout the city. Narrative choices are also featured at several points, which inject meaningful and dramatic consequences that succeed at feeling personal and integral to your story. In a way one might experience when playing an RPG.
There’s also a palpable sense of pressure to make the right choices as the events of the story unfold, and like the best genre stories Unavowed’s is both surprising and emotionally charged. With twists and turns that don’t so much feel out of left field but force you to reinterpret events and marvel at the deeper meaning of it all. This aspect of Unavowed separates the experience from its clear visual inspiration – that being a SVGA point-and-click adventure from the 1990s. From a visual standpoint the 640x480 resolution (that scales remarkable well even at 4K) feels familiar and old-school. But, as detailed above, the experience itself is anything but.
Taking a brief detour through Wadjet Eye’s own history, thematically Unavowed feels like an extension of the studio’s excellent Blackwell series. In fact, it quite possibly takes place in the same universe. A world where the afterlife is not only real, but certain humans can see and interact with ghosts. A world where gods, interdimensional creatures, different astral planes, and myth merge with the current day. Like John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China, but more serious and with a scope that branches and reaches throughout an entire world of cultures. For a more adventure-game appropriate comparison think Sierra’s Gabriel Knight but with a story that never assigns itself to a single ideology.
It’s a fascinating framework too. To tell a story that begins with a series of gruesome murders to investigate, that slowly evolves into a tale about the fate of a city. A serial killer on the loose, only that it was you - but with the killing done at a time when you were possessed by a demon. The Unavowed of the title refers to the group that performs your exorcism – and the very same group you join to get to the bottom of the underlying mystery.
Often the measure of an adventure game comes down to the quality of the story being told, the characters within, and not the puzzle design or stumbling blocks you meet along the way. On that front Unavowed is for the most part challenging without ever feeling obtuse or featuring puzzles that adversely affect the pacing. From our playthrough there was only one instance that felt a little ‘old-school’ in that it required a string of numbers to be deciphered from piecing together a few different ambiguous clues.
For the most part though, how Unavowed eschews backtracking by placing you within a setting like Chinatown or Brooklyn and keeping you there until the mystery is solved or conclusion reached – negates some of ‘wandering around aimlessly’ feel of the genre. Whether inadvertently or not this allows for the more complicated puzzles to feel both natural to the environment they’re contained within and the story itself – something that the genre has often struggled with in the past. Thanks to Wadjet Eye’s now decade-long commitment to creating narrative driven point-and-click adventures that look and sound like products from a bygone era, it has seemingly done the impossible with Unavowed. Created a modern-day pixel-art driven, point-and-click classic.
An adventure to savour, and one to revisit in the years to come.