Adventure games don’t get as much love as they used to. Is it because of all the action-packed titles? The fact that the modern gamer doesn’t have the patience to think the puzzles that are the backbone of any adventure title through? Or is it just because there’s been a serious drop in quality? No matter which way you see it, the latest game by renowned adventure game developer Péndulo Studios, titled Yesterday, deserves the love.
In Yesterday, you play as the eponymous and oddly-named John Yesterday who is suffering from a bout of amnesia. He is briefed by his employer and benefactor, Henry White, that he was doing an investigation into a cult, and sets off to uncover more answers. It sounds cliché, but you’ll quickly discover that it isn’t, as John’s plight is more unusual than what you may think. It helps that Yesterday does a darn good job of structuring its story in a non-linear, but comprehensible fashion, mostly by using flashbacks. These are cleverly weaved through as either fully playable sequences, cinematics or dialogue that get you closer to the tantalising truth, but also raise more questions. There are even a couple of sections that allow you to play as a younger version of Henry and his friend, Cooper. The dialogue is quite well-written, although occasionally (but mostly intentionally) silly, with a lot of the humour being quite dark in nature. The same goes for the overall nature of Yesterday’s story – the game is much darker than what you may expect from the genre. It occasionally even borders on being a horror title, with topics such as Satanism and suicide being quite prominent.
Yesterday’s gameplay is of the point-and-click variety. Péndulo Studios has simplified the typical genre gameplay, in the sense that options such as speaking to people and walking around an area aren’t selectable actions, but more context-sensitive. Choose to examine a person for example, and the game will bring up a dialogue menu. If you want to move somewhere to examine an object, just click on the object and your character will fade in and out as though he’s just done a very quick trek there. Wary players need not worry about pixel hunting for said objects/hot spots either, as there is a button to show you where points of interest are. Things aren’t made too easy though as they fade out quite quickly and you are unable to press the button for a few seconds. It’s a thoughtful element that saves a lot of unnecessary clicking. Most of the puzzles are well done and make sense, although a couple require rather significant leaps of logic that may leave you scratching your head even after you’ve solved it. I won’t spoil them by giving you examples, but you’ll know the ones I mean when you come across them. It was during these puzzles that the hint button came in handy. Again, like the buttons that reveals hotspots, the game doesn’t make things too easy for you, as hints start out quite vague and the game forces you to try things yourself before a hint can be given again.
John’s quest sends him off exploring several different areas, all of which have their own distinctive feel and are gorgeously rendered in Péndulo’s recognisable style. Even the dreariest environments are brought to life with little details and splashes of colour. Similarly, the characters are reminiscent of those from the Runaway series and The Next BIG Thing, with slightly exaggerated features. Decent voice acting brings the characters to life as well, although for some reason, not all the lines in the game were voiced. (I’m willing to chalk that up to over-enthusiastic clicking.) The soundtrack is great as well and suits the game mysterious and grim nature perfectly. Of note is the haunting whistling song that is played throughout the game, which I’ve been unable to get out of my head for the last week.
So where does it all go wrong? Unfortunately, it’s the length of the game; it only took me five or so hours to complete the game (with all three endings), which, in my experience with adventure games, is incredibly short. Slap on the Steam price of USD$29.99 and it’s awfully expensive, and despite all Yesterday’s strong points it makes it hard to recommend it. However, there’s a rumour abound that either DLC or a patch is coming soon, which might add a little bit more play time on, so let’s just hope that doesn’t open up any plot holes.
It’s clear that so much work has been put into Yesterday - the magnificent storytelling, the characters, the visuals – but then to tack on a ridiculously short playing time is absolutely perplexing. Without a doubt, I highly recommend the game to anyone who enjoys a well-told story, but I also highly recommend waiting for a price drop.