Designing adventure game protagonists is not easy. Sure, playing as a wisecracking know-it-all can be fun, but those characters often overstay their welcome way too soon with their snark. On the other hand, if your protagonist is a blank page, they tend to be a little too bland to spend extended amounts of time in their company.
Enter handyman Harper Pendrell, Unforeseen Incident’s likeable protagonist. He is the perfect main character, and he turns a good adventure game into a downright amazing adventure game.
You see, Harper can be kind of a loveable dork, but he’s certainly not an idiot. There’s a dry wit to some of his remarks, but they never devolve into snarky one-liner territory. Its the game’s sharp writing that keeps him likeable, and his slightly clueless everyman shtick makes him somewhat relatable (…said the clueless white dude – your mileage may vary, obviously).
The game’s cast of supporting characters are similarly well-written and interesting. Everyone in Yelltown has their little story and actual history with Harper, and it is apparent that these people are more than a means to an end, an element in a puzzle, or an obstacle to overcome.
Given how that is pretty much the standard mode of point-and-click adventure games, this feels positively refreshing. Developer Backwoods Entertainment certainly put a lot of thought into making the characters feel more alive than your run-of-the-mill adventure ensemble usually does.
Unforeseen Incidents’ plot revolves around a mysterious disease, known as the Yelltown fever, which spreads across the country. When Harper meets a dying woman in the street, he’s swept right into a conspiracy that only he can expose – with the help of an elderly scientist and a cautious reporter.
All of this is presented in a rather restrained way, emphasized by the game’s idiosyncratic graphical style and its sparse, atmospheric instrumentation. The puzzles are logical, the story is well-told, and the voice-acting is great across the board. But really, the way Unforeseen Incidents treats its characters and, most of all, its protagonist is what makes it special.