Yesterday – Preview

There comes a time in any comedian’s career where they have the chance to prove that making us laugh isn’t their only talent. Famous scenery-chewer Jim Carrey no doubt shocked many when his performance in The Truman Show proved to be one of his most memorable ever, and I doubt anyone who watched Superbad was expecting Jonah Hill to be an Oscar nominee this year. It’s not just actors who are willing to show such versatility either, as Pendulo Studios, creators of the Runaway Trilogy and The Next BIG Thing, are serving up something much darker than their previous fare in their upcoming adventure,Yesterday.

The story takes us to good old New York City, where beggars are going missing, only to show up dead after being burnt alive, and people are discovering odd scars appearing on their palms in the shape of a ‘Y’. The game begins with a cut-scene showing a mind map sprawled across a wall, though it slowly becomes evident that thoughts aren’t the only things being spilled onto the wall, as several words and symbols have been written on it in blood. As the view zooms out, intercut with shots of dead people, to reveal a still-lit pentagram on the floor, you know this isn’t going to be your standard point and click adventure.

Yesterday then promptly takes you back a year where you are introduced to the first of three playable characters: Henry White, son of a rich businessman and dedicated member of the Sons of Don Quixote, an organisation dedicated to helping rehabilitate the homeless and give them another shot at life. Henry is joined by his friend Cooper, who seems to be perpetually haunted by visions of his Young Pioneers leader Mr Hart berating him at even the slightest provocation, as they travel to an abandoned subway system in order to rescue some homeless people from their squalor.

Straight away, I was blown away by the game’s stellar look and presentation; dialogue shows up in speech bubbles, and panels appear onscreen as characters talk to each other, which helps make the scenes feel more dynamic and unique than other titles in the genre. Items you investigate will also show up in these panels for you to check over more clearly, and your inventory is always contained at the bottom of the screen for quick access. Also confined to the lower part of the screen are the game’s options, as well as the ability to call up a hint or see all of the available hotspots in the current environment. The way the game utilises both of these abilities – the hint system in particular – is one that particularly interested me; once you’ve used them, you then have to explore and experiment with what you have, which in turn replenishes their meters, meaning that you can’t rely on them to take the easy way out every time.

As you traverse the allegedly abandoned station you’ll eventually find that while Pendulo have taken a turn for the darker with Yesterday, they still haven’t lost their sense of humour. Investigating particular items or experimenting when attempting to solve puzzles will often reward the player in a way that you can’t help but laugh at, and throughout my time with the game I often found myself doing the same thing over again, or attempting solutions I wouldn’t otherwise have considered, just to see how the game would react. While there is only one ‘correct’ solution for each puzzle, Yesterday will sometimes acknowledge some of your more outlandish ideas, as I discovered when the game quipped that it was probably too much to ask of an action figure to be able to pick a lock. Early on, Henry remarks that whoever lives in the station must have a twisted sense of humour, and it seems apt to level such remarks at the game itself, especially after a sequence where Henry is captured and held at gunpoint, while a homeless man named Choke debates his fate with a crowd of mannequins that react to the self-proclaimed preacher’s every sentence.

Henry’s capture means that you get to take control of Cooper, the game’s second of three playable protagonists, and Pendulo Studios make that change in character count. What Cooper lacks in intelligence he makes up for in athleticism, and the puzzles react accordingly.  While Henry is tasked with dismantling and fixing objects and proving his worth as a chess champion, Cooper finds himself relying on brute force and clumsy makeshift solutions to traverse the environment in order to save his friend. While the solutions to some of the puzzles felt slightly more obvious (I didn’t have to use the hint button, in any case) in this sequence, it’ll be interesting to see how the developers handle the dynamic of the characters and their puzzles later on. My time as Cooper was far shorter than it was with Henry, but it felt just as memorable, thanks in no small part to Mr Hart. When investigating objects as Henry you’d sometimes receive a sarcastic quip or two, but when doing so with Cooper, you’ll instead be met with an unfortunate barrage of insults, courtesy of the Young Pioneers leader. Despite doing his best to psychologically torment you upon each appearance, he does drop subtle hints as to how to proceed, making him a slightly less punchable version of Navi from Ocarina of Time. After gathering everything needed to save his friend, Cooper bursts into the room…

…And that’s where my time with Yesterday ended, but not before delivering a twist that left my mouth agape. Pendulo Studios have promised that Yesterday will provide plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing, and the fact that I genuinely didn’t see the twist coming stands as a testament to how well crafted the story feels so far. It’ll be interesting to see how Pendulo Studios handle the titular character, John Yesterday, and whether they can make him a compelling protagonist, despite the fact that his memory has been wiped, as well as how they will balance the gameplay and puzzles around three protagonists.

The preview build I played was missing voice acting and suffered from some translation issues, but the music and sound effects that were present helped create a tense atmosphere and complimented the action brilliantly. While the difficulty curve on the puzzles feels a little uneven, they’re by no means too difficult or too easy, and the use of multiple protagonists provides a wider variety that doesn’t feel cynical, either. So far, the game is well presented, well written, and genuinely engrossing, and I have high hopes that it’ll be worth the wait when it releases later this year.

In Yesterday, Pendulo Studios have created a game that is dark, funny, atmospheric and gorgeous all at once, and if the rest of the game keeps up the level of quality I witnessed from my time with it, then it’ll be one you shouldn’t miss.




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2 Comments

  1. Marks says:

    Nice job Ed.

    The story and visuals may force me to pick this up. Not a huge fan of the genre but this might be the one that pulls me in.

  2. Lorna says:

    I really like the twist they have put on some of the usual conveniences that we tend to see as standard now, with the ‘show all hotspots’ key being limited and needing recharged. Interesting touch, although it may frustrate some who don’t like pixel-hunting too much in adventures. Limiting tips though is a very good idea.

    Loving the art style anyway and am looking forward to catching this one on release.

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