PC Review – Can ‘Yesterday’ bring back a genre from yesteryear?

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Yesterday is a point-and-click adventure game that may reel players in with its detailed hand-drawn backgrounds, Team Fortress-like characters, and mature plot, but will that be enough to propel them to the end of this story? Does the gameplay walk hand-in-hand, doing its part to draw players further in, or will they be jarringly thrust back into reality? Find out next on…(cue music) Review Time!

You want me to trust you implicitly, investigate a satanic cult, and revisit the location I tried to commit suicide? Sure!

Yesterday’s story involves a character named John Yesterday, a man who has amnesia. He finds himself in an odd situation: he is forced to trust people he doesn’t recognize so that he can discover his identity. His first task is to investigate a 15th-century satanic cult called The Order of the Flesh. The last time he was in Paris investigating this cult though, he apparently attempted to commit suicide. Putting personal safety aside, John heads out to Paris once again on behalf of his employer.

Hey! Devil worshippers! Leave those kids alone!

The plot goes by at a nice pace, revealing interesting bits of information that will have you constantly questioning what’s going on, and keep you curious to find out what’s next. Playing through the game again (which is a whole lot faster once you know the puzzles) is practically a requirement, because doing so with your newly gained insight will help you to make sense of certain dialogue and scenes. There is some foreshadowing that is (just about) impossible to catch your first time around, unless you have a superb memory, or you play the whole game in one sitting. The story will have you questioning the reason for your existence in its current state–what is it that makes you, you?

As for the graphical presentation, it will draw you in immediately. The backgrounds are all highly detailed, colorful, and they often have a surreal perspective to them that warps certain sections of the screen. There are often numerous objects, debris, shadows, lighting, and textures to delight your visual sense. The music adds to the ambiance, playing a more minor role. It stays out of the way to prevent itself from becoming annoying (you will be in some of these areas for awhile, so that was a good move). Initially, the mouth animations were off-putting, because sometimes they’re not totally in sync, and they’re not as high quality as I’m sure most people are used to. I got over that nitpick quickly though, because the story is quite engrossing.

The voice acting is fairly well done. It may not be the best, but it’s far from the worst. There were only a few times that I felt that the main characters didn’t hit their mark. My only major complaint in this area is the French front desk worker. To put it bluntly, he was terrible. It sounds like they just grabbed a random guy from the office to perform the role. Thankfully he doesn’t ruin the entire experience, he just mars it a bit.

No, don't go in! Why? There's puzzles...

There is one final element that a point-and-click adventure can’t do without: puzzles. Unfortunately, the puzzles are easily the weakest part of the game. There was one puzzle in particular that stands out above the rest. There were several similar objects in a room, and I used an object on them that I thought would garner a result. All of them allowed me to manipulate them in this way except for one. This one object gave the description that my character would never manipulate that object in that way ever. After searching around in frustration, I finally accidentally solved the puzzle, doing the exact thing (but in a slightly different way) that my character said he would never do. It just made no sense. Too many of the puzzles don’t have enough logical steps that lead you to the right conclusion.

The puzzles have even more problems than those mentioned above. There are times when you have to combine two items when you don’t even know why you would do it–it’s just blind luck. At another time, you will hit a brick wall, not knowing what needs to be done. At this moment, all it takes is another call to a character you previously talked with to get the ball rolling. It would have been nice if the protagonist had given a clue such as, “Hmmm, maybe I should call ::blank:: about this”. Instead, you’ll fumble around the area until you, as a last resort, make that phone call. The person you’re supposed to call does say that you should call him if you find anything, but you’re finding things left and right. If you called him every time you found something, you’d just be wasting time.

So, our journey into the world of satanic cults ends here. Well, mine did, anyway. Yesterday is a game that will pull you in with its extraordinary attention to the world. However, the puzzles of the game are the least enjoyable aspect, and you’ll mostly be slogging through them to see the story through. To avoid unnecessary wasted time and frustration, I highly recommend that players use the in-game tip system and object-find ability often. The story is worth the effort, but probably not at the retail price of $30. The high price would be justified if the puzzles were enjoyable throughout, but as is, I would only recommend a maximum purchase of $20. To answer this review’s question as to whether or not Yesterday can help to bring back the point-and-click adventure genre: it’s a start, but the gameplay needs a dramatic increase in quality if that is to happen.

Yesterday was published by Pendulo studios for PC. It retails for $29.99 and can be downloaded from Amazon, or its official site.

Grade: C+

Platform: Windows Vist / XP / 7
Size: 5 GB
Estimated completion time: 8 hours
Release date: March 23rd, 2012
Developer: Pendulo Studios
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive

Ryan Southard

Ryan Southard is a video game enthusiast, dissecting games down to their tiniest details. Whether it’s new or it’s old, as long as it’s awesome, he’ll play it. Follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Southard

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