Nostalgia has always been a big part of popular culture. Whether it’s genuine memories of our childhood or manufactured versions of a fictional past, we can’t get enough of looking backwards. Netflix’s Stranger Things is perhaps the most obvious example in recent years, and Unusual Findings is clearly influenced by the adventures of Hawkins’ finest. Rather than a slavish clone or rip-off, however, this point and click adventure brings in enough different 80s references to stand on its own.
Rather than dealing with shadowy alternate worlds, the three friends at the heart of Unusual Findings must take on an alien invasion as well as the daily problems of being a teenager in America. Anyone with a passing knowledge of classic films such as ET or Back to the Future will immediately recognise the mood and setting here, and the teens’ first main challenge will be escaping their bedrooms after being grounded. As the game progresses, though, you’ll be solving puzzles ranging from getting a broken NES cartridge to work again to sneaking past a battalion of evil aliens.
As a point and click adventure you’ll be going through dialogue options, searching the environment for interactive spots, and working out which items to use in each situation. These puzzles are generally more intuitive and logical than in many games of this genre, but there are a few genuine head-scratchers – not least one case where you have to combine 4 or 5 items (something that doesn’t really happen elsewhere in the game).
Of course, much of what I’ve just described is basic genre stuff – Unusual Findings doesn’t look to reinvent the genre in any way – and what really makes an adventure game stand out is the setting and the quality of the writing. Fortunately this is where Unusual Findings really shines. The three main characters, Vinny, Nick, and Tony, are charming and geeky in equal measures and cover the typical nerd range.
Main character Vinny is a gamer, Nick is a long haired Rambo fan, while Tony is a tech wizard. These characteristics work in creating team dynamics as well as providing specific approaches to puzzles. Some of the most memorable points in the game revolve around character moments such as Nick rushing in without thinking or Tony using his tech knowledge. Even better, many of these iconic moments offer up alternative paths opening up new puzzles and even different endings.