Growing up, I had always been obsessed with crime dramas and investigation TV shows. I would sneak downstairs when I should have been in bed and sit right in front of the television. My Mum used to go mad when she first caught me and send me straight back upstairs, although it wasn’t long before she would just sigh and let me stay up and watch these shows with her.
Therefore, it is not too shocking that I developed an interest in detective and mystery games. From board games like Cluedo (it was Professor Plum, with the dagger in the library) and 221B Baker Street, to console games like Ace Attorney, the Professor Layton series and CSI: Hard Evidence, based on the popular TV program (which actually released 12 games overall), I was an eager participant and collector.
So when I read the concept of Unheard for the first time, I was pretty intrigued.
With all other detective games I had played, their objective is to look for clues and find evidence to determine who was guilty and who was innocent. With Unheard, whilst the point of the game is still the same, you do not look for clues specifically. Instead, you must listen for them. I was really excited to give this a go and exercise my detective skills in a new way!
You are first brought into a room with a woman. She explains that you have been chosen to trail a new crime detecting method called ‘Acoustic Detective System’. This device will allow you to place yourself at the scene of the crime, just moments before the crime has been committed. Whilst you can not see who anyone is, you can hear them and it is your job to discover who each person is, and just who was involved in the crimes.
In Unheard you have the ability to listen in to every conversation on the map by moving yourself into different locations. These recordings are repayable, and no door will stop you as you eavesdrop on secrets that these suspects had no intention of ever being discovered. Do you think you missed something? No problem, just rewind the recording and listen to it all over again.
At this point, make sure you have your headphones plugged in, as every sound matters.
The first crime scene is definitely your tutorial. The map is small, with three rooms to enter and 4 possible suspects. Your objective is to discover who each individual is and to find out just who hid the drugs. As you listen to the recording, you will learn who is guilty and who is innocent.
However, to be able to hear each conversation you have to be in the room with them, although if someone is speaking loud enough you can hear them through the door but they will be muffled. Proximity is in place, and the closer you are to someone, the clearer they will be.
The recording is short, just over two and a half minutes long and whilst listening in on the conversation in the interrogation room, you discover that ‘Tyler’ will actually be Cameron, who likes to pretend he is his identical twin brother to avoid getting into trouble. Well, he is certainly in trouble this time, as not only has he been arrested for driving while intoxicated, he has also been caught with drugs in the car.
Not everything is as it seems in Unheard though, for once you are at the end of the recording, you are prompted to replay the scene again but place yourself in a different room where you’ll quickly learn your first conclusion was a little premature.
After this first scene has been completed and the truth has been discovered, there are 4 more crime scenes to solve. Each one will be longer, with more people and bigger maps. The complexity of each case will get harder the further you progress. Plus, not only will you have to identify who everyone is (which will take many replays and stalking), you will need to answer different questions pertaining to each crime.
I found that I really appreciated the difficulty of each case, as I found that I had to not only replay parts over again but with more characters, I was directing myself across the map over and over again. Nobody would stay in one place at the time, and they would interact with everyone, making it difficult to keep track of each conversation. No two characters were alike. They each had their own personalities and their own agendas. I would begin to suspect one person, then soon change my mind all over again.
It is really easy to miss important conversations and one missed clue can quite easily lead you to the wrong answer. However, there is no penalty for getting an answer wrong, and you have an unlimited amount of attempts to correctly guess the correct answer. Eventually, via a process of elimination, you will find the truth. There is a limited number of characters at each crime scene, and if there are multiple questions, you are told how many you got right. Personally, I was a little disappointed with this. I feel it would only benefit from a rating system.
Overall, I found that I really enjoyed playing Unheard. With the game itself being narrative driven, it is important that the sounds and the voice acting to be best. I am quite happy to find myself very impressed. A lot of thought and effort has been put into creating these characters, and the voice acting is very professional. They have portrayed their characters full of emotion and personality with different accents and dialects. I was also blown away by the quality of the sound effects and music. The details are small, but it really brings the game together for a more immersive experience.
I believe that this is why the use of headphones is encouraged, as the game executes a surround sound effect, with voices and sounds going from one ear to the other and the sound increasing and decreasing in volume. However, you are not forced to play with headphones. If you wanted to play the game through your computer’s speakers, you are still able to.
The graphics are more basic, but they are not the focus of Unheard, as this game relies entirely on its sound. The maps are hazy blueprints, simple yet not off-putting. Each map layout has been designed thoughtfully and is well presented.
I do not think that Unheard has any replayability at this point of time, as with only 5 cases to complete, there is only so much that can be discovered. It had only taken me under 5 hours to solve each of the cases and complete the game and it costs under $7.00 (around £5.00) which I do believe is a reasonable cost for what you get.
Thankfully, the team that created Unheard have stated that they are planning to release a free DLC within the next few months. This will more than likely include more cases, which will expand the gameplay further and encourage their existing detectives to come back and explore the game. I can happily say that I will be eagerly looking forward to any future cases.