Disclaimer: This review of What Happened was conducted using a review code provided to me by the game’s PR team. This does not affect my judgment of the game and is explaiend for the purpose of transparency.
In this review, we will briefly be touching on issues relating to mental health, substance abuse, bereavement and suicidal thoughts. If these issues are something you would rather avoid, I take no offence if you choose to scroll to the bottom of this review and read the pros and cons and see the score. Just know that these themes are core to What Happened.
Mental health has become a prominent discussion in society over the last few years. And rightly so. It sadly affects a vast number of people. 1 in 4 people in the UK experience some form of mental health problem every year according to Mind. Myself included. I have been living with depression for some years now, on and off. So when I was offered a chance to review a game that was centred around a young man’s struggle with mental health, I was interested to see how it was depicted in a medium I love so much.
A Troubled Young Man
What Happened follows the story of Stiles, a young man currently in high school. As the game progresses we learn that Stiles is currently going through a tough time. Following the death of his father, Stiles turned to drugs as a form of coping. Stiles’ drug of choice is acid, or LSD; a powerful hallucinogenic drug. This causes Stiles to see and hear things that don’t truly exist. Stiles’ drug use begins to affect other areas of his life and all of this, in addition to being bullied, leads Stiles to have some rather dark thoughts.
The story of What Happened follows Stiles through a drug trip, as we learn everything that has happened. Throughout the game Stiles is having an inner battle with his mind, which manifests as a clone of Stiles. As is, unfortunately, the way with depression Stiles’ mind tells him some rather horrible things. Attempting to make him believe that Stiles is unloved and even better off dead. The game progresses through, painting the story of all the events leading up to this particular drug trip.
What was interesting to me is that What Happened actually has multiple endings, something I only discovered after completing the game. I received an achievement for ‘The Bad Ending’ and became curious as to how I had obtained this ending. Visting the game’s Steam page, I learned that there are very small details that the player does throughout the game. Stiles’ mind tells you to do certain things, to trust it. Whether you decide to or not seemingly affects the ending you obtain. What Happened features a New Game+ mode, in which cutscenes can be skipped should you wish to obtain a different ending. You also gain the ability to give people the middle finger, something I would personally like to see more often in games.
What Happened is essentially a walking simulator, with horror elements. The player walks through each area, with a certain goal. Many of these centre around light bulbs or switches, turning them on and bringing light to Stiles’ dark world. The issue is, the gameplay of What Happened is what drags down the experience of the game.
The gameplay feels overly long, and tedious. One playthrough takes roughly 6 hours to complete, however it just feels too long. There are too many sections of aimlessly walking around. On top of this, certain sections of the game are frustratingly difficult.
One particular section sees you running from a shark, as your mind gives you instructions on where to go. I personally found these instructions came too late and found myself just repeatedly dying so I could memorise the pattern. Later in the game, you must once again run from sharks. This time though they came straight at you, and you must turn and run. Again, I died many times. I feel this wouldn’t be so bad if the rest of the gameplay elements of What Happened didn’t already feel frustratingly tedious.
An Assualt On The Eyes
Graphically What Happened lives up to the quality that you expect from a modern game. In terms of its audio quality, the game also meets the levels of quality one would expect. Both of these are impressive given that the game is developed by indie devs. There were times, frequently throughout my playthrough, that the frame rate of the game tanked. This left me with a very laggy experience and made me worry that maybe my PC wasn’t powerful enough to run What Happened. I checked a few sites and found that my PC was in fact powerful enough to run the game. Hopefully, these framerate drops are addressed by the developers in future patches.
However, there is one major issue I would like to address. I understand that the game follows Stiles through an LSD trip, however, this game gave me some pretty bad motion sickness. The game features a barrage of colours, flashing lights as well as the rooms swaying as you walk. All of this can become very disorientating, and made me almost not want to play the game. I understand the reason for its inclusion, but I can’t help but feel the game went a tad overboard with its realism.
A Powerful Look Into Mental Health
All of the above considered I do believe that What Happened provides a very good, much-needed dive into what those who live with mental health problems experience. The themes explored in the game rung true to my personal experience with depression; the feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem. It’s just a shame that the gameplay of What Happened doesn’t quite match the delivery of these themes