Review: Unusual Findings (Nintendo Switch)

Vinny, Nick, and Tony just want to watch some cable TV. Since the nerd of the group got a signal de-scrambler, they should be able to watch some interesting programs. Too bad they’re all grounded. Sneaking around a bit to watch some TV with your friends sounds good. What could possibly go wrong?

We all know those words are just the sort of thing that sets Murphy’s alarm bells off. When ducking out of the house to watch the sort of TV shows adolescent boys want to watch, however, running into an alien invasion and the possible end of the world seem an overreaction even for Murphy’s Law. But, here we are.

I’ll start the review with the visuals and audio because these are the first things a player notices. I’m normally ranting at this point about developers overusing the 8-bit pixelation effect; the Switch is capable of stunning graphics, but here we are looking at 1987. In this case, the game is set somewhere near 1987 so the homage is OK. Besides the period theme of the game, Unusual Findings has avoided the other pitfall into which this visual style usually falls. Here, the size and proportion of the characters and objects are rendered in such a way that it is not difficult to distinguish what the object or person is supposed to be. I still think the visuals could be smoother, but this game does the pixelated look well enough to get a pass. The audio effects are likewise suited to the time period and well done. What needs to be in the background stays in the background, and the dialogue is delivered clearly.

Since this is a point-and-click adventure, you will get plenty of Joy-Con action selecting things, but not for actually moving your characters around. Once you select a location on the screen, a button press sends your three amigos walking toward your selected point; the boys will take care of getting there for you.

Speaking of selecting things, there is a feature the game doesn’t tell you about but is fairly common for this type of game; if you press “up” on the d-pad the game will identify all of the objects with which you can interact. This is the closest to a clue you will get in the game.

Not everything is wandering around, looking at things, collecting things, and using things to solve puzzles and advance the story. Oh, no. You get to interact with other residents of the town and have interesting conversations. By this, I mean you get to select a question/statement from a menu of options to try to get information from the rest of the denizens of your sleepy little hamlet. Some are more helpful than others, but it will, at least, keep you busy for a while. The voice acting is, in places, fairly well done—sometimes a bit cringey, but always interesting.

The first level of Unusual Findings has you running around town to talk with some interesting characters, including some encounter material which earns this game its T (teen) rating. There are some interesting puzzles to piece together, and by interesting, I mean obtuse and unforgiving.

There is a lot of back and forth, experimenting with objects and researching areas to make sure you got everything possible so you have that one last component needed to actually do what you already know you want to do. The setup for puzzle solving is sometimes obvious, but getting to the solution may take some time. If this is not what you like in an adventure game, expect to be frustrated. If you enjoy esoteric puzzles where simple logic isn’t enough, this game should keep you amused for a while.

At one point, you will even get a game within the game. Like the primitive adventures it portrays, you will likely have to play through a few times to land on the place you need to be to get the answer to the clue you have to add to the list of information you need to unlock the thing that…

You get the picture.

One of the endearing elements of the game is the nostalgia for the 1980s. There are some uses of ‘80s music in the soundtrack, on our heroes’ outfits, and in the visuals of the world around them. The references (duly obscured to avoid copyright/trademark issues), for those who remember them, will be blazingly obvious. Some of these gently twisted cultural references are worth a knowing grin or two.

Don’t forget that just because Unusual Findings is an adventure game that doesn’t mean it will be fast; you will need to take your time with this one. At the time of publication, the game is available in the Nintendo eShop for $19.99. So, taking some time to get through it is a good thing.

Just don’t forget you’re supposed to be grounded.