The horror queen returns, and today we’re talking about What Happened. What Happened is a new psychological thriller from developers Genius Slackers. We follow Stiles on an adventure through his own fragile mind while he deals with anxiety and depression. Through twisted, atmospheric corridors, players must guide Stiles through the darkness, uncovering the truth about his past.
I need to preface this by stating this game took me longer to play than normal. This is down to the visuals. If you have a history of motion sickness, this game will NOT be for you. I’ve never had issues with motion sickness, but I genuinely felt physically sick at times during my playthrough. Now, there is a reason for this. Our protagonist Stiles has a history of drug abuse, and this is how the game opens. The visuals are designed to mimic an acid trip, and it is TOUGH. Everything is spinning and blurry, and colours assault your eyes. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the idea behind this. It just did not work for me personally, and because of this, I did have to play in short bursts.
So… What Happened?
There are some really drawn out moments in What Happened, and it is frustrating. There are areas where it feels like the only way to progress is by running in circles waiting for something to happen (looking at you butterfly section). Also… ragdoll section. There is no other way to describe it. And it was just… it was something alright. Weird to try control, and awkward to play. I mean, that probably could have been the point, but still. There were also some issues with lag, even on the lowest settings. The game lagged majorly when loading up, and there are moments where the audio is delayed by a couple of seconds.
It’s storytime! This game does have a really interesting story that is revealed more and more throughout the inner debates Stiles has. It is a really cool way to develop the story and was implemented very well. It kind of reminds me of the final act of Those Who Remain, wherein we are exploring Annika’s house, collecting her mother’s memories. I think this is a really cool way to tell a story and develop a character. Through the exploration of his memories and his mind corridors, we learn why Stiles is in such a dark place, and what keeps him held back in it.
Anyone who knows me also knows that story is the most important part of a game for me. Although I did have a few issues with things like graphics and gameplay, the story behind What Happened made up for a lot of that. Still can’t play it for more than maybe 30-40 minutes in one go though, those visuals in first person mess with my head and make me feel ill.
Let’s get real.
Something that What Happened does really well is how it depicts mental health, and I want to take the time now to talk about all of this. Mental health has become much less taboo in recent years, but a lot of mediums don’t necessarily handle it well. Others don’t go into it too much, just make reference to it. Like “oh X has depression!” Or “Hey, Y has anxiety!”
What Happened takes things to a different level by actually diving indirectly to someone’s head.
Now, recently I also reviewed Into A Dream which deals with depression. In that, you are literally wandering through someone’s head trying to get to the root of their depression. In my opinion, this was not done well. However, What Happened really managed this well. and showcased something not always seen in the media.
What Happened showcases the pure war in someone’s mind when dealing with mental health, especially the combination of anxiety and depression. These two can really go hand in hand and can create what feels like a battleground. One part of your mind is telling you one thing, the other screaming something else. Stiles’s mind can really be used to showcase how it feels to struggle with everything at once, especially for an outside perspective. Everything else aside, this alone could be a really valuable asset for showcasing mental health in a more realistic light. It is not romanticised in any way or made to seem “cute” or “quirky”. It is just real.
A parting note
I also want to take this moment to remind you all that it is okay to struggle. It is okay to feel down. I promise you, there are so many resources and people out there to help. There is no shame in asking for help. Ireland has some truly wonderful organisations for mental health, that do great work. They are there to help, and there is never (and will never be) anything wrong with asking for help. You are worth it.