It’s been a while since I’ve played a good point and click adventure game which has captured my attention so I play it through and through. Some have been too long and too boring, others have been short, but not interesting at all. Yesterday by Pendulo Studios is a perfect blend of engaging story, intuitive puzzles,gameplay and a beautiful artstyle. There are very few things I can nitpick about when it comes to this game.
The game starts quite grimly. Bloody symbols on walls in a dimly lit room mixed in with painful screams and flashes of people’s faces contorted in pain for good measure. Was this part of some kind of satanic cult ritual? In New York, beggars and vagrants go missing only to be found later burnt alive, is there a serial killer on the loose? How does the peculiar symbol ‘y’ tie into everything? Yesterday quickly sets up numerous questions which it slowly answers to as you play through the story.
You play as several different characters throughout Yesterday. After the gripping prologue which sets up the atmosphere of mystery for the entire game, the game jumps forward in time and you play as the protagonist John Yesterday, who has lost his memory and is trying to get it back. He only knows that he used to be an occult expert who was close to solving a mystery involving a satanic cult. However for some reason he tried to commit suicide by drinking mercury in a hotel room and wakes up with a strange ‘y’ symbol burnt into his palm. The story that follows is a discovery of several life times for Mr Yesterday, and for the player. The ending is interesting in that there are three endings you can choose from, but it’s as easy as choosing a, b, or c and seeing how it plays out.
The gameplay is simple and if you’ve played a lot of point-and-click adventures before then it’ll be intuitive. You click on item of interest, read descriptions and sometimes add these items to your inventory. Eventually you’ll encounter a part of the level you can’t get to or an item you can’t quite reach, but you need. Most of the time you have to combine particular items in your inventory together to create a new item to bypass the obstacle you’ve come up against.What I appreciated a lot in Yesterday were the little optional gameplay elements. There’s a button you can press which shows you what you can interact with for a few seconds – It doesn’t tell you what you had to do, but it nudges you in the right direction of what you could look at – this eliminates that annoying scan-every-corner-of-the-screen-with-the-cursor-to-find-what-you-can-interact-with moment that sucks the player out of the atmosphere the game is working hard on maintaining. The hint system is also really clever in Yesterday - it forces you to have a go at investigating and trial and error before the hint button activates and allows you to get a clue.
Art style is unique and stylised and I absolutely love it. When I saw the first couple of screens with the hand-painted backgrounds and the cel-shaded characters I knew I was really going to enjoy seeing what this game had to offer me visually and it didn’t disappoint in the slightest – the backdrops are absolutely gorgeous (kudos to the artists who created and rendered them!). The music and sound effects in the game are equally amazing. They aren’t obtrusive and they give the perfect sense of ambience and atmosphere of the environment you’re playing in. The little sound effects you hear are really satisfying; the sound of a rope cutting or a lock coming undone are nice rewards for solving the little puzzles you find. The voice-acted scenes are lovely; when it comes to characters with an accent they aren’t melodramatic or cheesy and the humorous scenes are delivered perfectly.
There are only a few things I can nit-pick about this game and it’s to do with the story that was delivered. It’s a very well written and intriguing story, but how it plays out becomes a bit rocky at times. The main antagonist’s goals are clear, but how he became the antagonist is a bit iffy. I’m not sure if it’s because certain events triggered it, or if he was always the way he was (although when you first meet him he certainly doesn’t seem like the bad guy). The love interest in the game kind of just hits you in the face out of the blue. There was, like, a one second hint of their existence and when you finally see them, about a minute later the protagonist is all “Oh, and remember I love you.”. I thought it was strange since the love interest plays a pretty big part in the endings. There’s also this thing of how the protagonist has particular skills he suddenly remembers he had that are super convenient. Like, how he’s suddenly a kung-fu master when he’s in trouble. I wish I were joking, but there was no hint or lead up to how he could have possessed these skills. Suddenly he remembers he has them and you play through a flashback of how he trained to get these skills, but there was no lead up in the present-time story or even a hint that he had them.
Overall Yesterday is a fantastic game, even if I have to nit-pick about the delivery of story. All the occurrences that happen in the story make sense, it’s just delivered a little shakily – like they were trying to rush the story a little. For such an expansive and creative storyline, the game is actually quite short, so if it were a little bit longer I don’t think anyone would complain. However, this is a must have for point-and-click adventure fans or even anyone who is wanting to try the genre.