04th Aug2020

‘What Happened’ Review (PC/Steam)

by Chris Thomas

Ah… Indie horror games. We tend to remember the few successes but forget the many failures.

What Happened is an indie horror game available through Steam. From the off the game tries to scare us, with warnings of seizures and unskippable opening credits that managed to stutter slightly on my pretty darn powerful gaming PC.

Why don’t more games have an options menu where you have to move your character, and interact with things to access the menus? It sounds like a cool immersive idea, right? Well, in practice it is very irritating to have to run down a corridor and clumsily interact with items when you want to check what the controls are. Andwith What Happened I had to check what the controls are because I thought I must be doing something wrong. I was not it turns out. Baffling as it might be, I was supposed to be sitting on that toilet and panning the camera around like a lunatic. I’m also sure I have seen other first person games where you have to hold the mouse button down and move the mouse to interact with items, again it sounds like a good idea until you try it and it’s a horribly frustrating experience.

What I am not sure of, is if I have ever flushed a toilet to start a game. Then when we start What Happened, we are sitting on the toilet in a high school… we are a student no less! (with our trousers on) and we can’t get off the toilet. It turns out we can’t leave until we have moved our invisible mouse pointer over the walls of the toilet stalls so the game reads out all the semi incomprehensible messages on them.

Ah. We are then told that our character has dropped acid, that is why everything is very trippy, and our protagonists brain seems to hate him. This is more of an interactive novel than a “game” in the conventional sense, we are moving the character forward, yes, but only into heavily scripted interactions so there is very little “gameplay” to speak of (and what there is happens to be clunky and frustrating).

Now we get to the biggest problem with the game. Playing What Happened made me feel intensely car sick after only a few minutes. I never managed to get to the bit where the shark chases us. I took 3 breaks and tried again, within literally 30 seconds of restarting I felt ill again. Steam tells me that there have been several fixes to help, but clearly not enough. I must add, I have never felt ill, in my 30 years of playing computer, PC and arcade games before!

The problem with indie horror games – as with with indie horror films – is they often lack a competent person to tell them straight that things don’t work, and within 15 minutes of playing What Happened I felt incredibly sick and had a very powerful headache from camera pans, the lighting effects and all the weird nonsense that is happening. Surely in play testing the user experience of this awful mess was brought up? How can anyone expect to receive money for this? Perhaps they could market it as the “weight loss video game” as it invokes vomiting. Going by the big warning perhaps I should be grateful I only felt sick and did not have seizures. Count the blessings!

I am not even sure if this counts as a review, as I have not been able to experience all of what What Happened has to offer, because what I have managed to experience has been an intense feeling of sickness. I usually like to throw in a bit of mocking humour to make myself feel better when I have reviewed something awful but this is so broken as product, it made me feel so awful, I just want to get some fresh air and forget about it.

What Happened is out now on PC/Steam.

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