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Gentlemen, raise your glasses

In Yesterday, you play the part of… no, wait, that’s not going to work. Okay, it’s set in modern-day… well, sort of modern day… actually I can’t really talk about exactly where…

I quit. It’s impossible to talk about the plot, characters or setting of a game like Yesterday without spoiling something for someone, somewhere. Suffice to say, I hope, it’s a point-and-click conspiracy thriller that will remind you as much of Broken Sword as anything. However, Yesterday packs many more unexpected twists and characters who play against type into its short-but-sweet storyline than you are likely to see in the average game. There are a couple of great moments where you think you’ve just about got things worked out in your head and everything flips over, leaving you hurrying to catch up. And it’s dark, too. There are some themes in here that really aren’t suitable for the kiddiewinkies.

Welcome to paragraph three. This paragraph, and the ones that follow it, are just for you and me. We chosen few who like point and click adventures well enough to read (and write) reviews for them. All of those guys who managed it half-way through paragraph two and lost interest? We don’t need them! Freaking normals. No, we’re the ones who’ll sit and try to use the wet dog on the thermonuclear warhead, or talk to the homeless leprechaun, or repeatedly examine each and every painting in a cheap hotel room just in the hope of finding that next delicious clue that will send us on to the next chapter. It is to you I address the rest of this review.

I’m not going to insult your already-developed understanding of the genre with such trivialities as “some of the puzzles can be taxing”, because in point and click land, there are ALWAYS a couple of puzzles which are slightly taxing, requiring you to think like the programmers rather than like a rational human being. Sometimes, your character will be in open revolt: trying to combine objects might just get a curt “I’m not going to use those together”. Not that he can’t, you see, just that he won’t. But again, that’s point and click land.

No, the stand-out positives in Yesterday are all in the characters and the mystery. Neither of which I can really go into much detail about except to say that in many cases they’re absolutely unique, and very memorable. The game is set in the present, more or less, and the story is told in a non-linear way, often lapsing into flashback with what can be disorientating suddenness. Themes of black magic and betrayal are balanced with those of redemption and love (and even in listing these four things I feel like I’ve overstepped my own spoiler line-in-the-sand), and the way the story can swing you from an unresolved battle to a moment of quiet contemplation is unusual, but not altogether ineffective.

As a point and click adventure, system requirements were pretty gentle, and the Chillaxe handled everything with its usual panache. Visually it has the comic-book feel of many of Pendulo’s previous adventure titles, which seems to fit the feel of the game, although perhaps it makes the horror elements a little less edgy than they perhaps want to be.

The problem, however, is the problem faced by so many modern point and click games. It’s too short. There’s never a dull moment, it’s true, but there can’t really afford to be when the whole game will last you maybe 6-8 hours tops. As a point and click adventure, there’s naturally not a lot of replayability here either, unless you count the very real possibility of putting it on the shelf for three years and forgetting as much about it as you can before coming back to it. See, my moan about it being too short is because I was really enjoying it. The end isn’t sudden – it’s paced very well, in fact – but everything could do with stretching out a little. Each section of the game is played over about three rooms at a time – once you’ve solved those rooms, you’re on to the next scene, and can’t go back. This limits the aimless wandering which can really eat into the enjoyment of any point and clicker, and if you click on an object to examine or an exit to use on the opposite side of the screen your character will just kind of fade out and back into existence, skipping over the dreary walk across the screen. This is a very good thing. But nevertheless, each and every one of the main characters could have used a bit more dialogue and a little more building. I liked the characters and I wanted to see where their relationships and motivations were going, and before I knew it they were all either in love, or at each other’s throats, and then it was all done.

Yesterday spins a good yarn, and they obviously started with a strong idea for a story and then built the game around it. Sometimes the subject matter and the visual style can be a little jarring, but the seriousness of the whole thing made the occasional comic relief quite effective. It’s intelligent and adult without being desperately difficult, and the story – which I’ve managed to get through this entire review without even really describing – is sharply written. But I wanted more.

I had a job interview like this once