Preview: 'Yesterday' (PC)

You might recall that a couple of weeks back we ran some screens from the upcoming adventure game Yesterday and that I was pretty impressed with the art style on display for the March release. Well with the release about a month out, the developer, Pendulo Studios, sent along a build of the first chapter from the game for us to check out.

Featuring maybe 30 minutes or so of gameplay, the build is pretty much adventure game bread and butter: that's to say, while there aren't any leaps forward in the genre here, its odd tone and kitchen sink story might be of interest to you if the team at Pendulo resolves a few interface, technical, and localization issues before the release date.

In the build, I was able to play as two of the game's playable characters: brainy rich kid Henry White and his jock buddy Cooper. Both of them work for a charitable organization that helps the homeless in New York (albeit a version of the Big Apple that's not especially recognizable to anyone who's lived there), and when Henry enters a tunnel looking for any of the lost and dispossessed, he's captured by a gun-wielding nut and dragged into a bizarre cult ritual. By the end of the build, the story has gone from odd and slightly dangerous to outright dark and maybe a little supernatural.

The basic point and click mechanics of your garden variety adventure game are here, so you'll be clicking on points of interest in the environment, gaining clues about what's going on in the abandoned tunnel, and combining any found objects to access more locations and further explore the story. Dialog-wise, you'll have a couple of choice-list conversations to find out more about the lunatic characters that you meet and there's even a quick chess mini-game to break things up.

The actual puzzles I encountered were more or less straightforward, although I had to do a decent amount of clicking around in the environment to find some of the objects I needed (but then, that's the genre, I suppose). You can see the interface pictured above, with all of the items you've collected organized at the bottom of the screen. I was able to click on an object and drag it over either another object in my inventory or something in the environment for them to interact—a pretty straightforward system, stymied somewhat by the occasional twitchiness of the cursor.

Some of the narrative elements seem interesting but are delivered with a certain flat, directness, as though the script needed another polish to get some humor and personality in there—with one exception. Cooper occasionally has these episodes where he remembers his bullying Scout Master which are some of the funniest and strangest elements in an already off-kilter game. The build I played had animations for the characters' speech but no actual audio for the dialog, so it's possible this may be a voice-free experience.

The art style with which I was so enamored is still here, albeit attached to a work-in-progress animation system. Right now, the characters have a little bit of an awkward, low frame count style to their movement, and most of the characters essentially move in a very deliberate, not-so-fluid style. Hopefully this is something Pendulo is working on because right now it's not really doing a service to the art style.

From what I've played so far, Yesterday could have the potential to be one of those off-kilter, memorable releases that come around as a respite to the usual raft of shooters, fighters, and action games I typically play, at least in terms of telling an unexpected story. But again, it feels like it needs a little more time to back before it feels completely finished and Pendulo will have a total package worthy of those impressive first images they were showing off a couple of weeks back.

Yesterday will be available on the PC in March from Pendulo Studios and Focus Home Interactive. You can find out more about the game on its official site.

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