What Happened Review — A Rushed, Incomplete Story
What Happened sacrifices almost everything to achieve an impressive story, but in the end, it's not worthwhile.
Usually, we tend to try out every triple-A title that comes to market, sometimes disregarding how good or bad they are. But when it comes to indie projects, they don’t catch our attention in the same way. Of course, there are a lot of indie games that have huge communities, but most of the time, they need to be above a certain standard to get to the headlines.
Actually, this is just as much of a criticism of myself and all the media working in the video game industry. We all need to value indie games as much as big-budget projects, I believe. This will help the industry grow faster and will aid gamers in making wise purchasing decisions.
Reviewing a mediocre game is always as helpful as evaluating a superb experience. While the latter would advise a developer what steps should be taken for a successful game, the former can warn of the mistakes that should be avoided. Unfortunately, What Happened was quite a disappointing experience for me, though it could have been a much better game if the developers would’ve taken the correct precautions.
The main problem with What Happened is that everything feels out of place. The game tries to reach realistic visuals but it can’t even run basic facial expressions properly. The story is supposed to have an ever-lasting influence on players about loneliness and suicide, but it cannot expand and detail certain events enough to make you feel the pains of a bully victim. But above all the issues, the worst part in What Happened is its gameplay. There is nothing more than walking and opening doors that you can do.
I don’t expect an indie game to feature modern-day graphics and high-quality visuals, but sometimes, it’s the developer who asks me to raise my expectations. Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is an indie game that tries its best to deliver 8th-gen visuals and nails it, which is an outstanding achievement for the studio. On the other hand, many indie projects like What Happened attempt to hit the same milestones and fail. I can’t blame a game because of its pixelated graphics, but when you promise a high standard horror experience and you can’t even tackle the basic achievements, of course, you deserve to be blamed.
What Happened could have been made in a different graphical style that needed fewer resources and effort than a realistic inspiration of the idea, but the development team decided to choose the toughest route. As a result, the game has major issues in loading textures and unforgivable problems in character design and animations. Characters in What Happened feel like dolls that can’t even talk properly. Such an issue in a story-driven game is capable of ruining all the character relationships, and that’s exactly the cost Genius Slackers have paid for achieving better visuals.
When it comes to the story, things are really messy in What Happened. There are so many mistakes that should be criticized that I just don’t know where to start. What Happened follows the story of a high school student who has lost his dad in an accident, is bullied by his classmates, and is cheated on by his lover and his best friend — that’s it. The story never expands on those events in any way. In the first hour of your experience, you get to know all the things that happened for Stiles, and after that, the story stops at a single point without getting further into details.
Mind, who is the evil side of Stiles that encourages him to commit suicide, is the main antagonist of the game, along with all the ones who have stabbed Stiles in the back. All Mind can do is to remind you of the repetitive memories of your lover’s betrayal and repeat a series of tedious dialogues to affect your feelings, but he never succeeds.
Lack of information in the story makes it hard to figure out the mysteries behind the many locations that you visit in your nightmares. The Hands of Darkness, The Shark, never-ending corridors, and nearly half of the bizarre places that you find yourself in lose their meaning.
The environmental design is one of the few positive parts of the game that really impressed me at some points. The way it represents the inner self of a person who unstoppably thinks of death and suicide is the best part of What Happened to me. It’s not easy to create a world capable of depicting stories impossible to tell in words with the same level of impact, but at a few points in the experience, What Happened nailed what it was aiming for.
Despite featuring acceptable music in various situations throughout the game, the voice acting of the protagonist in What Happened is far away from the standards we expect. While the other characters don’t have such a problem, it makes me wonder why the developers didn’t use better options for the protagonist instead of the barely-speaking side characters. Aside from his unfluent speaking, the voice actor behind Stiles sometimes feels superficial by overreacting to some less important events in the game.
Finally, it’s time to talk about the gameplay in What Happened, but I don’t have much to say about it as there aren’t many gameplay mechanics present. It’s mainly just comprised of walking, running, opening doors and brackets, and finding light bulbs. Of course, for a horror game like Outlast, you have even fewer gameplay mechanics than What Happened, but the world design of Outlast and its horrifying scenarios are stressing enough that you don’t really ask for something more in the game.
Although What Happened tries to act like an exciting horror game at some points, it doesn’t last. Most of the time you feel confused rather than scared of what’s happening. There are some horrifying scenarios in the game, but they are not enough for a title that is set in the horror genre.
There are some puzzles in the game as well, but I’d not really call them “puzzles” as you don’t solve anything. You are just tasked to find different objects and put them in the determined locations, and that’s it.
Unfortunately, Genius Slackers has invested most of their time on storytelling with What Happened, but at the end of the day, it turned out to be the game’s worst aspect. If they tried to add more variation to the gameplay elements rather than focusing on an undeveloped story, the result could’ve been much better than what it is now.