Turn off the Lights

Hands-On With Yesterday

Adventure Games have a tough time in the modern market.  With their emphasis on story-telling, intellectual challenge and tried & true mechanics, the genre is a hard sell for audiences that continually seek better graphics, online multiplayer and “The same, but MORE” gameplay.  Still, there are several prominent developers who specialize in this genre, among them is Pendulo Studios.  With series like Runaway, and last year’s The Next BIG Thing to their credit, they are known for light-hearted projects, but their upcoming game Yesterday is taking the series in a new direction.  A creepy direction.  Player Affinity got the chance to try out a few chapters of the new project and explore the beginning of this dark storyline.


Yesterday is about mysterious deaths among the homeless, and a cult that’s somehow involved.   The two chapters I played gave me access to two of the three playable characters, Henry and Cooper.  I still haven’t had the chance to learn more about the titular character John Yesterday, but I had plenty of fun with the other two.

In Chapter 1 it was the brainy nerd Henry White, who has to make his way through an abandoned subway station, then outwit the leader of a group of insane homeless people. In his adventure I found that some tweaks have been added to the traditional adventure formula.  Unlike Pendulo’s last game, The Next BIG Thing, the default movement animation is for characters to quickly appear wherever I clicked.  This makes the game progress much faster, as I didn’t have to watch the characters run across the screen every time I wanted them to interact with something.  Also, clicking on an object brings up a small window with a closer view where I had the option of examining it or interacting.


Much of the play was the standard formula of: Find the right items, Combine them, Use them in the right place.  However, later portions of the chapter involved more conversations, and eventually had me using my Chess skills to outwit a villain.


Next up was a chapter as Henry’s beefy friend Cooper.  This section was much funnier than the first.  Cooper gets hints throughout his adventure thanks to flashbacks from his time as a Boy Scout.  He is constantly berated in his flashbacks by a cruel Scoutmaster who mocks him for his stupidity, thereby mocking the Player for our own failures to assemble items in the right order.


Although both chapters were set in the same general location, Cooper has access to areas that were closed off to the other playable character.  He’s much stronger than his smaller pal, and could move obstacles that Henry couldn’t get past.


Some of the puzzles were a little too tricky, such as a way to improvise a lockpick.  As is often the case with adventure games, the answer is all too obvious once you’ve figured it out, but solving that particular puzzle was more of a matter of trial and error for me.  Luckily, there are a couple of hint systems built into Yesterday.  One is a Light Bulb icon that will give the general idea of what object is needed next.  It doesn’t outright tell you what to do, and there’s a recharge meter that prevents players from spamming it.  There is also an icon to highlight hotspots on the screen.  This is a brief and subtle effect, so again it doesn’t make solving puzzles too easy.


Despite the generally darker tone of the game, Yesterday still uses a cartoony visual design.  Parts of it are creepy, but it avoids realism is these chapters.  A European title, the English voice work wasn’t available in the preview code, but previous games by Pendulo have had excellent voice acting, so I’m optimistic about that.


The playable chapters I tried end with a great plot twist.  Based on that alone Yesterday is worthy of a closer look as it approaches.  You can see more of our preview coverage, and visit Yesterday’s official website.


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