It’s been said more than once that the point and click adventure game is dead. Nostalgics may mourn the loss of their humour and storytelling, but the clunky mechanics and obtuse puzzles won’t be missed. Bucking this trend, however, are the folks at Pendulo Studios who, in their latest title, Yesterday, have sought to bring back the old tropes dressed up in a more modern style.
From the very start, Yesterday sets itself apart with its dark plot and grim premise – a grisly murderer is preying on the homeless, linking the deaths to a sinister cult. It’s up to amnesiac investigator, John Yesterday, to piece together the mystery.
As you work through the game’s prologue, it quickly becomes clear how many lessons Pendulo have taken to heart when updating the adventure genre and adding a modern style. Double-clicking removes the irritating and lengthy walking sequences, allowing you to focus on the action rather than waiting for anything to happen. The built-in hints system also ensures that the game doesn’t stall for too long at any point, even if certain suggestions could be better. Chastising the player for missing an “obvious” element hidden away in the corner of the screen isn’t, after all, the best form of encouragement.
Visually, Yesterday carries on the style that has become Pendulo’s trademark. The richly coloured, almost cartoonish animation could fool unsuspecting players into assuming that the game is all about humour but the range of expression and atmosphere that it affords lends itself wonderfully to the dark plot as much as any more jovial setting. Playful interjections, such as the memories of an abusive scoutmaster and a slightly perverted hotel concierge do inject a bit of light relief and are testimony to Pendulo’s skills when it comes to creating a convincing and entertaining story.
Sadly, it’s the game’s inconsistency that lets it down. Voice acting swings wildly from the intensely expressive to monotonous, wooden performances. Some puzzles make perfect sense – to open a door, you need to find a big enough bar with which to bash your way through – while others force you to try endless combinations until, somehow, through a series of obtuse decisions, a drinks can becomes an effective lockpick.
The plot suffers from the same slapdash design. Things start off slow and, just as you seem to find a steady pace, the game ends abruptly, throwing out a sudden flurry of plot elements that leave you feeling confused and unsatisfied in equal parts. For a title that offers so much in terms of original, interesting content, it fails to deliver all that it promises.
There’s no denying that Yesterday is an ambitious project. It reminds us that good storytelling can carry an experience through – for a time at least. After five hours, I was growing frustrated with the jumpy pacing and increasingly nonsensical puzzles and, while the credits came unexpectedly early, I’m not sure how much longer it could have lasted without greater care and attention.
Yesterday does take some effort but, if you’re willing to forgive its foibles and focus on what Pendulo get right, it’s certainly worth a look, especially for point & click veterans.
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