What Happened is a first-person walkthrough story adventure that follows a high school student’s dark struggle with drug abuse, depression, and anxiety.
Beginning with a dramatic and disturbing surreal cutscene, players enter the twisted mind and body of Stiles and guide him through the twisted corridors of his school through the lens of drug-induced visions, along with the haunting voice in his head that randomly likes to remind him of how worthless his life is. What Happened is a constant struggle to determine what is real and what lies within Stile’s own thoughts and views.
The main character, Stiles, is a teenager experiencing extreme mental health challenges that have left him in a drug-induced stupor at the start of the game. Exploration definitely creates an empathetic connection between the player and character, while staggering around and trying to make sense of the environment.
Stiles can be controlled via the keyboard and mouse, or gamepad controller. The game autosaves, although it is not clear when, so players might have to repeat some scenes and actions if exiting and reentering the game at a later time.
The creators of What Happened did an excellent job of creating a haunting environment in which the player can connect into the mind of someone with multiple mental health challenges. Part of the real beauty of this game is the graphic depiction of Stile’s issues through poignant, and sometimes shocking, visuals and sounds. Not only does this build awareness of mental health issues, but it allows for a true horror experience with many unexpected twists and turns.
Players begin with absolutely no tutorial or how the controls work, in addition to starting “inside” the game’s menu, which is not apparent until frustratingly figuring out movement and how to interact with objects. There is no explanation of if/when/how progress can be saved, and even settings are contained within this initial start zone. After finding the settings “room”, there is only one accessibility option available – subtitles. There are no options for decreasing “head bob” or other motion, as is commonly found within most first-person games. Granted, there is a very stern warning at the start of the game that warns about “flashing lights and blurred motion”, but without an option to adjust those aspects or turn them off entirely, the developers will miss out on a sizable portion of a very diverse gaming audience. I found myself only being able to play the game in very small spurts, due to nearly vomit-inducing motion sickness. These downsides did not make me empathize with the main character’s plight, but absolutely detest playing at times, as it completely sucked me out of the story.
Despite the frustrating learning curve at the start, this game leaves the player asking “what happened?” throughout the intense exploration to find out what truly happened. What Happened is a great experience for those who enjoy interactive stories with subjective theming of the main character and will perhaps even empathize with players who have similar struggles in their own lives. It is available for $24.99 on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1296290/What_Happened/
FINAL SCORE: 6 out of 10