Lucas Pope has held a special place in a lot of gamers’ hearts ever since the debut of Papers, Please. The art style and writing that he brings to his games give them such a unique edge and really brings them to life. When I heard about this game, I was already up to my eyes in excitement. That Unsolicited was an entry into the Ludum Dare Game Jam 33, and made in 48 hours, makes it more intriguing still.
The first thing that’s noticeable in Unsolicited just from the title screen is that the art style is pretty identical to that of Papers, Please, and the music is nice as well. Unsolicited is a game where players work for a company called ACME – whose generic title tells us little, but they are a direct mailing company. Players have to fill out different types of forms to the order’s specifications, sign the forms, seal them, and finally deliver them. On top of all that, and in true Lucas Pope spirit, you are constantly being timed.
Unsolicited’s UI is very clean. Everything is clearly laid out in front of the player. Orders for different forms will come in on the left side, the different forms to choose from are on the right side of the workspace, and everything you need to fill out the forms are all done by clicking on the form itself.
The game’s difficulty comes from paying attention to the order and all of the orders coming through at once. Every order includes a name, expiry date, telephone number, and different amounts of money depending on the document. Other forms, acquired later, have even more categories. Players will select the correct form, and then have to click on the blank lines to fill them in. A list appears showing players every possible option they can choose, which increases ever more as more and more orders come through. This process is repeated until the form is complete, where you then sign the document, seal it, and deliver it. These are done pretty quickly, through buttons at the bottom of the workspace. If players make a mistake – for example forget to sign the form before sealing and delivering, the form is rolled into a crude ball and tossed into the bin. Luckily for the player, they can do it over, although at the cost of extra (limited) time.
Every day the orders are finished, more clients are accepted and that means more forms to fill out the next day. A minimum of 5 need to be completed each day, making no more than 4 mistakes, and a certain number of each form have to be made out so you don’t lose clients. If ACME loses all of their clients, players can either choose to quit the job to find another (to support their family) or keep sitting at the job until more clients arrive. This involves sitting at the workspace until the timer runs out, doing nothing. It is completely unnecessary, but adds an atmosphere of futility that I would expect from a Lucas Pope game. After a couple of days, players are given a new client, and the process repeats. Of course, players may have chosen to quit the job by then.
The flaws are few, but should still be addressed. There is no tutorial for this game, which meant that I had to stare at the first order for a few minutes to work out what to do. The timer is paused for that first order to let players familiarize themselves, though, which slightly fixes the issue. It is a little hard to criticize because the game was made in only 48 hours. Another issue, and probably the only other one, is that I don’t feel as though there are any stakes when I mess up. In Papers, Please, I feel so dumb when I get a citation (one of the scariest sounds in videogames), because I know that if it continues then my family will die. In Unsolicited, players get to restart that day if they fail. It really throws away the tension that a game like this would greatly benefit from.
In the end, Unsolicted is another very good game from Lucas Pope, and all the more impressive for being made in only 48 hours. I would like to see the game expanded, although that’s not strictly necessary. The game only fits the Ludum Dare theme “You Are the Monster” if you think direct mail employees are monsters, but frankly, I don’t care. It’s a great game and I can’t wait for more from Pope. You can play Unsolicited here, on Lucas Pope’s website.