Every now and then a game comes along that really transforms the homebrew gaming scene. In 2018, that game was Wyvern Tales, in 2021 it has to be Unnamed. There's not been anything quite like it on the Lynx and the amount of polish and effort that went into it really shows. Of course there are some hiccups and I'll mention those, but overall this game is very fun to play, it is quite challenging and does really well with graphics, music and controls.
Unnamed is a "Game of mystery and adventure" as its publisher, Songbird Productions describes it. It's written by Marcin Siwek and has a loose connection to his previous game for the Lynx, Unseen. The premise of the story is you wake up in a strange place and need to find your way out. Unseen presents many puzzles that require you to collect items, unlock doors, and travel around the game's world. As you get further and further into the game, more of the story is presented to you.
Graphics in unnamed are very clean and simple, but they work quite effectively. The colour palette uses well defined hues for different parts of the world, there is no muddiness and it's clear to see what's what. Due to the nature of the game, its tile sets have to flow well and not have too much variation - that's because for this type of game, anything that looks a little out of the ordinary is usually something that you need to unlock, uncover or discover in some way.
The screen in Unnamed is split into two sections, the graphical world section at the top, and the menu/text section at the bottom. Due to this, only about 60% of the screen is showing the actual game world, this works but it would have been nice if the menu wasn't permanently covering the bottom part of the screen. I'm also going to nitpick the font used for the menu - it's the standard CC65 font, which is rather chunky and ends up taking up lots of space, a custom font with a smaller footprint would have been much more effective.
Animations in Unnamed are few - your character walking animation, candle flames, cat walking, etc. These look quite good and add a nice serene atmosphere to the game. They don't overwhelm what's being shown on screen, yet at the same time provide a welcome distraction and flare.
Let's first talk about sound effects - there are none. This is not actually a negative for Unnamed, although it would have been nice to have some SFX, however not having them adds to the game's mood and story.
Music in Unnamed is great! There are two tracks, one for the above ground rooms and one for underground rooms. The music creates a melancholy atmosphere and doesn't distract from actual game play. It works really well as background music and ties the whole theme of the game together. The only complaint is the lack of variety, more than two tracks would have been very welcome.
The control scheme in Unnamed feels a little unusual. The D-pad is primarily used to move your character around, when the 'move' action is selected. When the 'use' action is selected, it is used to pick an item in your inventory. What makes it unusual is that the A, B, and Opt1 buttons map to the actions in the menu, which makes having a menu of actions a little redundant, however this mapping is much better than having to navigate a menu all the time, especially since you'll be required to switch actions many a time.
The direction your character faces is very important in this game. Every action you do (walk, look, etc) depends on this. The D-pad is used to adjust the direction when you're moving, the way this is done - by first changing character direction, then doing the move feels quite smooth. It's also not necessary to hold down D-pad buttons and movements are grid based i.e. you will always move a full tile in the direction you're facing.
Overall the control scheme is OK, but I feel that it could have been better. I kept on getting stuck between the 'use' and 'move' actions quite often, which led to some button mashing to get back to the action I wanted to do.
Being a puzzle adventure game, challenge is very important and Unnamed nails this category perfectly. The game starts off easy and straight forward...it almost feels like it will be a linear progression, but after you discover a few new rooms, things get hard. Some of the puzzles are very difficult indeed, just remember there is always a solution. Some of the time, you will need to do several things in order to make progress, and you will need to back track. Look in every nook and cranny and you will find something that will help you move on. Anything that looks out of place is most likely important.
A small note - some of the puzzles are not straight forward and you will have to think outside the box to connect the dots. This can become frustrating, especially if you thought you looked everywhere already. Trust me, if you're stuck, you haven't explored everywhere! A difficulty setting would have been good, or a way to get a hint to get past a puzzle, but of course that would be defeating the point of the game (says the guy who plays games on Easy Mode if possible).
This game will take you between 4 to 8 hours to complete, depending on how good you are at solving puzzles. It's very fun to keep going back to, to get the next challenge done, however once you get to the final scene, that's the end...or is it? Not quite! There is a 'Game+' mode that is unlocked once you complete the game the first time around. This mode changes locations of items you need to complete the game and it adds a couple of extra puzzles into the mix. It's like playing a whole new game.
You can save your progress in Unnamed (the cartridge includes EEPROM) so you don't have to finish it in one go and you don't have to remember any game codes. This is very nice to have and adds a modern feel to a game designed for a 30+ year old console.
So is Unnamed worth it? I think so! Especially if you've played Unseen. It's very fun being able to walk around and explore a world and unlock new areas without having to worry about random encounters. There are no enemies (well except a ghost that sometimes appears), so it's your wit against the puzzles that await you. Great graphics, music and story - you can't really ask for much more!