Join a paranormal police force in point-and-click adventure Unavowed.
If you’ve ever woken up after a wild night out and cringed as a friend recounted every embarrassing thing you did in excruciating detail, you’ll likely resonate with Unavowed. Except the main character didn’t drink too many caipirinhas at happy hour and get thrown out of a club for being sick on the dancefloor; they were possessed by a demon who used their body to go on a murderous rampage across New York City. Unavowed begins as the demon is being forcibly extracted from you on a rain-lashed rooftop. In this dramatic intro you decide whether you’re a man or a woman and choose from three backgrounds—actor, cop, or bartender—each of which has its own origin story and unlocks dialogue options later on.
This is one example of how Unavowed seasons its familiar point-and-click template with light roleplaying elements. I love it, because you rarely get to choose who you play as in these games, and it does take some getting used to. Whether it’s Guybrush Threepwood, George Stobbart, or Manny Calavera, graphic adventures are often defined by strong lead characters. Here, the protagonist feels much more like a blank cipher for the player.
Shortly after the exorcism, you join a paranormal police force called the Unavowed. For millennia it has been protecting the ‘mundanes’ (regular people) from ghosts, demons, monsters, and other threats. Work had dried up lately, but your possession sparks a surge of events that gives the Unavowed more work than it has had in decades.
In another example of genres colliding, you can choose which Unavowed members to take on a mission with you, essentially forming a party. They have conversations with one another and give you hints about what to do next, but more practically, you can use their unique powers to help you solve puzzles.
At first you don’t remember what happened while you were possessed. But as you retrace your steps and discover clues about your past, the blanks are gradually filled in. The anthology-like structure works well, because you’re never sure what kind of weirdness each mission will throw at you, but there’s also a larger, well-told story connecting everything to give it some thematic consistency.
Unavowed is also incredibly atmospheric. The shadowy streets of New York provide an evocative backdrop for its urban fantasy, and the marriage of the everyday with the supernatural is classily done. The detailed art by Wadjet Eye regular Ben Chandler is the highlight, with tasteful, considered use of light and shadow making the city ooze dark mystery. Throw in a jazzy, downbeat noir soundtrack, and you have a world that’s very easy to get lost in.
Between missions, you can explore the Unavowed’s HQ and have conversations with your companions, which reminds me a lot of Mass Effect. The characters are nuanced and interesting, and have backstories that are genuinely worth uncovering.
Puzzles are mostly the usual point-and-click fare, but a bit smarter and less obtuse than what I’ve come to expect from the genre. More than once I felt a surge of satisfaction for divining the solution to something that wasn’t immediately obvious, and any adventure game that gives me that feeling is doing something right. Some require slight leaps of logic that adventure-trained brains will be used to, but most of the time you just have to be observant, paying attention to clues and dialogue.
Unavowed is another fantastic adventure from Wadjet Eye, and it’s great to see founder Dave Gilbert back in the saddle. The humor didn’t always land for me, and some of the voice acting is iffy at times, but otherwise this is a fine example of a modern point-and-click. The addition of character customization and companions doesn’t sound like much, but it massively changes the feel of the game, even if aspects, such as the puzzles, are steeped in the past. The next time you wake up with a sore head, be thankful you didn’t leave a trail of death in your wake.
The marriage of the everyday with the supernatural is classily done