🍿 Unusual Findings PS5 Review 9/10 "A Group of Pop Culture-Loving Preteens Discover Something Supernatural" 🍿 @ESDigital_Games #GameDev #IndieGames

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A group of pop culture-loving preteens discover something supernatural afoot in their small, 1980s American town.

They cycle through creepy woods, battle inter-dimensional horrors and navigate shady government facilities, all while dealing with burgeoning hormonal urges and hair where there was no hair before.

No, I'm not describing Stranger Things (well OK, I blatantly am), but Unusual Findings, the latest adventure from Epic Llama, a superbly presented, loving send-up of our collective obsession with 80's nostalgia. If you're a fan of late 90's point-and-click adventures and if you think you'd prefer it if Netflix's Sci-fi juggernaut had its tongue in its cheek more, then Unusual Findings is going to delight you.

Preceding a genius opening credits sequence set to Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round" we meet our heroes Vinny, Nick and Tony who, in an attempt to watch some 80's cable porn accidentally make contact with an alien life form. Antics ensue.

It's often said that to truly parody something you need to know it inside out, and Epic Llama clearly loves the genre they are skewing. The writing is sharp and funny without overstepping the mark and undermining itself. The '80s were a bit ridiculous and Epic Llama has no issue reminding us. While examining a faux Fright Night poster Vinny is scolded by his friends "Your nostalgia for a past you never even lived through could make you miss the masterpieces of the present" On the nose, absolutely. Delivered hilariously, yes.

Those posters, by the way, might be the highlight of the game. For copyright reasons (presumably) Fright Night becomes Scare Night, Black Cauldron becomes Dark Cauldron etc.

Spotting and recognising the posters in their pixelated glory is almost a game in itself (the story being what it is, there are plenty of bedrooms, comic book shops and cinemas to show them off). It just speaks to the details that the team crammed into the game.

All of it is presented in a gorgeous, pixelated aesthetic, harking back to when Lucasarts' adventure games were reigning. The look is complemented by an outstanding soundtrack, a suitably electro score and terrific voice acting.

So, it’s gorgeous and sounds great - but it's not a walk in the park. In fact, it can be punishingly difficult.

It's been years since I played a true point-and-click adventure and Unusual Findings wasn't interested in holding my hand. This is a tricky game and demands that you keep a tab on what you're trying to achieve, who needs what, and what seemingly useless items are in your inventory.

There is a rush when you suddenly realise that the spring toy from your bedroom might fix a bear trap you stole or when your brain connects your need to distract the rangers and Vinny's brother's love of Prank calls but on occasion, it felt a little unfair. In one instance a video game cartridge didn't work, despite trying various dialogue options, I couldn't figure out what to do and just assumed it being broken was just part of the story.

Just by chance, I noticed the 'Speak' option was now 'Blow' on the cartridge. That's cute, but I never would have worked it out without stumbling across the answer by accident. But that was just one instance, the rest of the puzzles have logic, and the solutions present themselves if you pay attention, explore the world, and think creatively.

I had an absolute blast with Unusual Findings. Despite some frustrations (par for the course in this genre) the style, superb writing and batshit story (it keeps escalating so absurdly that I didn't bat an eyelid when I met the robot chef) kept me engaged throughout.

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