Immortality and rebirth are concepts that have permeated throughout human history, largely in part due to our own simple mortality. As a result, people have always asked the question of what might it be like to live forever? Pendulo Studios attempts to answer this question with their classic point and click adventure game Yesterday Origins.
Yesterday Origins tells the story of John Yesterday (no I’m not joking) and his immortal partner Pauline in modern day Paris as they attempt to find the potion that made them immortal in the first place. Well, immortal isn’t the entirely right word. You see the game kicks off with you playing a young John in 1481 (you will jump back and forth in time) during the Spanish inquisition where you are charged with being the devil’s own offspring. It was around this time John undergoes an alchemical transformation that turns him immortal; to an extent.
Essentially John, and Pauline by extension, live their lives normally and without any real powers. What makes them special is the fact that when they die they are immediately reborn to whatever age they were made immortal. So, if you were say twenty when you when under the transformation, when you die you would go back to being twenty with a full memory of your life before.
Well that’s how it’s supposed to work; of course, that’s not how it works for John. In John’s case, he forgets everything from his previous life, thus making his survival a little more complicated.
This is the set up for a multi-chapter narrative full of mystery and intrigue. It is part drama, part occult mystery, part adventure, and even part dark comedy. The story itself is enjoyable and has a good twist for John and his memory loss, alongside a very solid narrative tale that has a very sweet and heartwarming ending.
Characters are mostly interesting and fit the story very well each with their own deep and well written backgrounds; however, there are a few issues worth noting. The first is the voice acting is a little spotty. While most of the time the voice actors do a fine job, there are number of moments, mostly in the early chapters, where characters just sound unnatural and choppy. Since a major part of the game is dialogue based interaction, it can be problematic for the experience as a whole.
The game also indulges itself on dark humor, and while most of the time it is enjoyable, sometimes it seems to cross into just uncomfortable territory. There is a portion in the first chapter of the game where Pauline is complaining about having wrinkles. So how do you alleviate this problem? She gets a gun and shoots herself in the head so when she’s reborn she no longer has wrinkles. Yeah, needless to say that felt like we went from zero to one hundred real quick. Luckily though, these small details can be overlooked as the story and characters themselves are no less enjoyable.
From a gameplay perspective, this game is a nostalgic joy. Yesterday Origins is in the vein of classic point and click adventure games where you had to pick certain pieces of the environment and then mix them together to figure out puzzles. This throwback style is well done, with puzzles being deep and varied. For example, in the prologue of the game when you are in the prison of the Spanish inquisition, you have to find a way to escape. At your disposal is a key, a fire poker, a poisonous frog, a torture device known as the boot, a cloth and mug. There is a fire in the room, a dead body who looks identical to yours, a blood thirsty pig in your cell, and guard outside your door. So how do you escape? Those are the kinds of puzzles you have to deal with, each one with their own challenges and intrigues.
However, it is worth notice later in the game the puzzle solving takes a bit of a detour in challenge and you’ll find yourself flying through it. Also, the game lacks some of the older mystery of having to hang onto an item for an extended period of time with no use. Generally, once you get an item you have to use it ASAP.
On the unfortunate side, controls are a little wonky. You will often find yourself spinning in circles just to look at something in particular though the game does its best to alleviate some of these problems. There are very few bugs to mention, and overall the game runs quite smoothly.
Visually the game shines with one of the most interesting art styles I’ve seen in a long time. It is very comic book like and reminds me of the classic Ubisoft title XIII. The environments are detailed and varied, while character designs are original and fitting. The developers clearly took their time to make a beautiful world for the game. Sound design is solid with the background music being very sleuth like in the vein of Nancy Drew. As previously mentioned voice acting is mostly enjoyable with only a few notable stumbles early in the game. Pauline specifically has some of the best performances especially near the end of the story.
Overall Yestday Origins is simply a good game. It pays homage to a style we don’t see much anymore and creates an enjoyable narrative with an ending that is fulfilling to the player. Gameplay is functional and straight forward, and while puzzles could certainly have been deeper and a little more challenging they are fun equations. Yesterday Origins stands as an original and fun title that reminds us of a simpler and often more light hearted time in gaming, and it succeeds at being a title that (if you’re willing to pay for its 30-dollar price tag) might be worth your time today.