Something is fascinating about games daring to tackle mental health of any form, trying hard to illustrate the pain and anguish people go through. What Happened – out now on PC and coming soon to consoles – takes us down this bleak path. It’s a psychological thriller which casts you into the life and mind of Stiles, a troubled high school student.
Viewed from first person, you get to see Stiles’ journey through anxiety, depression, along with his nauseating LSD-fuelled fever dreams. It’s a heck of a trip.
By dealing with Stiles’ anxiety and depression, you begin to see what he experiences and how deeply affected he becomes through social encounters at school, battling with his mind in the process.
Progress can be confusing initially as there are no clear objectives. Instead, you roam around listening to what his subconscious says, which provides subtle hints. Horror elements are intertwined too, commencing during Stiles’ purposely disorientating LSD trips and whenever he encounters distorted memories.
It makes for a compelling story; one peppered with puzzle and adventure elements. Exploring and looking out for light switches while figuring out when to use them plays a small part. Help is usually on hand – Stiles will focus on certain objects or peer down paths. Controls have been seemingly kept simple to assist in immersion, preventing random key bashing when things get hectic or crazy.
The school bully soon shows up, and you also get to meet Stiles’ so-called friends. They aren’t exactly on good terms, mostly due to Stiles viewing people from skewed perspectives. Which friends are real? You’ll have to find out.
As struggles worsen, we began to feel empathy for Stiles. The fear he experiences when people are talking behind his back and calling him names is both cruel and impactful. The developers have done a good job portraying his emotions, especially how dark the mind can get when feeling angry and scared.
The sound effects heighten the experience, such as echoing corridors and the sound of walking on broken glass. There is no music – only environmental/background noise and inner monologues.
While the graphics aren’t quite cutting edge, they decent enough and help draw you into the game world. The mishmash of reality, such as the school’s corridors, and horrific darkness makes you want to delve deeper into Stiles’s mind. I wanted to see him pull through, and that proved to be compelling.
Although I did feel nauseous during the LSD trip sequences, I still wouldn’t hesitate to recommend What Happened to others. This psychological horror gets a lot right, especially when it comes to mental health and showing the kind of events that can potentially unfold within someone’s mind.
What Happened is out now on Steam.