Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Pendulo Studios
Release Date: 03/13/2012
Yesterday represents a shift in tone from Pendulo Studios’ previous works. Their previous games, including the Runaway series, were more comedic in nature, whereas Yesterday has a more grim tone. It does, however, share a similar graphical style, so let’s see how well the combination works here.
The game starts off in NYC with Henry White, a studious and philanthropic heir who works for an organization that provides resources for the homeless. He heads into an abandoned subway station to investigate a possible lead in the disappearance and murder of homeless people. Accompanying him is Samuel Cooper, a jock with little money to his name who has to help Henry after he encounters a zealot and his armed right hand man.
After that set of events, the focus shifts to John Yesterday (and stays there for the rest of the game), a man with expertise in satanic cults hired by Henry to investigate the Order of the Flesh, the group linked to the disapperances in NYC. He heads to Paris to the hotel room where he attempted suicide in order to try to find anything that would trigger his memories. From there, things compound, and things are revealed to be different from what they seem. The plot is heavily character driven, as it focuses on expounding on the motivation of each characters. Henry in particular goes from being a gawky young man to an astute businessman. One interesting bit is the troop leader popping up to berate Cooper, providing hints and a bit of insight into Cooper’s past in the process. However, Pauline is underwritten and makes for a superfical love interest.
The story flows quickly, and it manages to toss in plenty of twists along the way. However, it almost goes too fast at times, making it harder to follow, and some things aren’t explained as well as they could have been (such as what John was doing up in the mountains and why he stayed so long). The flashbacks can pull you out of the action, which doesn’t help in that regard. While I can see what the intention behind them was, going from tense confrontations with armed thugs to a mountaintop with a Tibetan monk does kill the mood. The flashbacks do help flesh out John’s character and background a bit, so they have some benefit. There’s even four different endings (more on that in a bit), with one being more akin to the UFO ending present in earlier Silent Hill games than a serious attempt at resolving the plot. While the serious ones mostly make sense within the context of preceding events, they’re rather brief and follow a similar structure.
The comic book style story scenes and cel-shading are stylistic and aesthetically pleasing overall. The environments are detailed and vividly colored, which makes the more macabre scenes pop all the more. However, the characters look stiff during the dialogue scenes because the only thing that moves is their mouths. The music fits the mood of the situation at hand and is aurally pleasant. The voice acting is generally solid overall and suits the respective characters. However, John’s voice acting is flat at times, even in intense situations that should be eliciting a stronger reaction. Given that you play as him for the majority of the game, this stands out more.
The gameplay consists of your standard pointing and clicking to move and interact with objects and examine the area you’re in. Clicking on the floor or an object has your character move to the spot you click. Characters teleport to a spot you click on instead of walking to it, which looks a bit odd initially but does speed up investigations of the area. Only the left mouse button is used, which simplifies things, but there were times when I tried to combine items or use one and I’d end up zooming in on it instead. There’s also a hint button that recharges after you try manipulating some objects, as well as a hotspot button that shows all the interactive points on the screen. While it’s useful and saves you time in hovering over everything until the cursor changes, the hotspots are shown only briefly, so you may need to hit the button more than once to catch them all.
As I mentioned, there are a total of four endings, though your last save leaves you before the last decision, so you don’t have to replay the entire game again to see them all. While the inclusion of multiple endings does help with replay value, and each ending does wrap up the story differently, they’re under two minutes apiece. There’s also little incentive to replay the game from scratch since you can just reload your file to unlock each one and nothing you do changes what happens along the way – it’s only the last choice you make that affects which ending you get. The secret ending relies partly on a random factor and dramatically departs from the other endings in tone. There’s a cameo of a character from Pendulo’s previous games as an easter egg to those who played the game. There’s also no hints in-game as to how to achieve it, as it requires finding a hidden object (the location of which changes each time you enter the area it’s in) with no hotspot indicator.
Most of the puzzles tend to have somewhat logicial solutions, or at least ones that you know what to do, but have to figure out how to do it. However, some convoluted, namely the hotel room section. The provided hints range from a gentle nudge to a blatant shove in the right direction. In addition, there’s no way to get a game over, and if you choose a wrong dialogue choice, you’re simply given the chance to try again. For a game dealing with some macabre subjects, this removes any sense of suspense.
Amnesiac protagonists are a trope in and of themselves, but the way it’s executed in this game makes it feel less cliched. The interactive flashbacks and being able to actually walk around in John’s recovered memory made it feel more dynamic than just seeing a brief scene pop up (though those were in the game as well). The end of the first set of events does turn your perception of a main character completely on its head. It plays exactly like your typical point-and-click adventure. While the hint and hotspot buttons could potentially help people who don’t normally play games in the genre. The overall experience is streamlined to an extent. Items in you inventory are disposed of after their usefulness has worn out, so you know that anything still in it has a purpose. You only ever explore a few screens in an area at one time, limiting the need for bactracking and scouring a lot of places to figure out how to proceed.
The game pulled me in from the start, and I was intrigued by the macabre premise. I kept wanting to know what would happen next, what was the deal with characters, and how things would resolve. I was able to beat it in about four hours, and unlocking the other endings didn’t take very long. Playing the same section over and over did get a bit repetitive, but it went by more quickly after the first time since I already knew how to progress. There was an inconsistency with piece of paper that had “The Evergreen, 1852” written on it, but with a description that said “The Evergreen 1853”. It threw me off for a moment, but it didn’t impede anything, and I didn’t notice other such errors.
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Above Average
FINAL SCORE: AVERAGE GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Yesterday has a fast paced story with a macabre premise, though at times it moves a bit too fast and doesn’t explain as much as it should. The overall presentation is polished and stylistic. It has multiple endings, though they’re all (with the exception of one) short and similar in structure, and there’s little incentive to play the game over. Overall, though, it’s worth a playthrough.