Last year, Pendulo Studios gave us a romp of the point-and-click variety, with a story full of monsters and dames. The Next Big Thing puzzled and joked its way to a 8.5 score here at Gamer Limit.
Pendulo returns with Yesterday. This time around the studios plumb gamers into the depths of the occult, sampling bits of gruesome torture and madness. It is no understatement to say they outdo themselves in the process.
Yesterday is yet another point-and-click game full of puzzles and story. That’s where the comparisons end, however. Players soon find that there is very little lightheartedness to be had.
Instead, the first thing to be had is tension in an abandoned subway, with a young Henry White staring down the barrel of a madman’s gun. It is no spoiler to let you know that he survives. Neither is it a spoiler to say that Henry is a serial killer. All this is revealed in the game’s opening.
That is the true genius Yesterday’s storytelling. Players know what is at stake upfront – namely White is one evil SOB and it is up to the main character, John Yesterday, to stop him. Thing is, Yesterday has lost his memory in an attempted suicide and thinks White is his friend.
This is definitely not your father’s point-and-click adventure.
The game develops with you playing as Yesterday, retracing the steps that led to his apparent suicide in hopes that something might jog his memory. The more he digs, however, the closer he gets to the mysterious art of alchemy and a satanic cult called The Order Of The Flesh. All the while, flashes of his past keep coming back, leading him to question whether he actually tried to commit suicide, or if someone tried to murder him.
What makes this story even stronger are the puzzles. Each and every one make sense for the story; and never does a puzzle feel like an arbitrary stall from getting to the next plot point.
For instance, John’s investigation takes him back the Parisian hotel room where he was found nearly dead. All of a sudden, he recalls giving the lascivious concierge an envelope with the explicit instructions not to give to anyone without the password, not even him. Of course, he had left himself clues around the room as to what the password is. Without giving anything away, the puzzle uses simple hotel room items quite ingeniously; it makes one feel like a good psychological thriller is taking place on screen.
Overall, the presentation is superb. In true Pendulo fashion, the game is delivered with pre-rendered backgrounds and cell shaded characters. All environments are rich, always tinged with darkness in the décor to fit with the themes of the occult, torture, murder (of which there is plenty in the game).
The characters themselves are less defined than in previous Pendulo titles. Yet, their loose design somehow provides balance. There are times when they are beaten and shot, Yesterday especially, and the amount of detail is just right. Never is the game gruesome to a point where it is just plain disgusting or over the top.
Wrap it all up in subtle sounds and music, and Yesterday is all around effective. The music actually serves two purposes: 1. to bring even more tension to specific parts in the game, and 2. to serve as a clue of sorts as the player gets closer and closer to solving any particular puzzle.
If there was a bone to pick, it would be with the item menu. At first glimpse, it is quite sleek, with a single bar going across the bottom of the screen. Players can pin the bar or un-pin it so that it’s hidden until hovered over with the mouse. All items are lined up ready to be used.
When it comes to using the items, however, the bar gets frustrating. Players can inspect an item with a simple click, drag an item over another item or over the environment to interact. Yet, the menu sometimes disregards the drag movement, thinking that you want to inspect. Inversely, it will be too sensitive and read a drag when there wasn’t one. It can make for a small, albeit justified, annoyance. Otherwise, this is one magnificent game.
As all point-and-clicks should, Yesterday tells a strong story and does it right, with no cheap twists, no secrets held from the player. That is not to say there aren’t any secrets held from the characters themselves. There is no shortage of Shakespearian irony. That good kind of irony.
Couple this with challenging puzzles and sharp graphics, you can’t go wrong. Yesterday truly offers the full package.
This review was based off a digital copy of Yesterday for the PC.