Remember Runaway? The Next BIG Thing? Or even the Spanish
language Hollywood Monsters? Fun, comedic animated adventures
every one. All of them Pendulo creations. So now we have Yesterday,
and more of the same.
Except we don’t.
Same is big, bright, beautifully
animated, character rich and story driven. Same is point and click,
inventory based, and conundrums a plenty.
Different is macabre, torture,
Satan and multiple deaths. And a little sex.
Kudos to Pendulo for daring to
be different. Kudos too for pulling it off.
The opening montage leaves you
in no doubt about the difference. If the slightly chilling whistling
doesn’t do it, the scream will. Assuming of course the visuals didn’t
already. Or the buzzing flies, or the beating heart. It’s a strong
Someone is killing the homeless,
but the charity work of Les Enfants de Don Quichotte must go on. First
stop for Henry White and his volunteer friend Samuel Cooper is Cadway
Station. Disused and derelict, you suspect Henry shouldn’t go in. But he
does, and you were right, and it gets a little weird and then it belts
you with a twist.
One year later and following a
hospitalisation he doesn’t remember, all John Yesterday knows is what
others can tell him. He was investigating satanic cults in Paris, he
tried to commit suicide, he was looked after. A return to Paris starts
to trigger memories, flashes here and there, and so we start to unwind
the knotted rope that is John Yesterday’s tale.
It ends in a choice – three in
fact – and not all of them good. You can play them all and make sure you
watch the final scene after the credits. One in particular provides the
perfect full stop. There is also an Easter Egg ending, assuming
you find the right item and use it appropriately. Pendulo is not above
laughing at itself.
The six to eight hours in
between flit back and forth between John now and his past memories, and
a variety of locations. You learn a lot about John, none of it ordinary.
It can be a little confusing, but be patient as it comes together. As it
does, suspend your disbelief and just go with it.
is delivered with a panache and style that alone makes it worth playing.
Comic book panels punctuate the production, from single frames in which
you examine objects to pastiche “cutscenes” of certain events. More
conventional cutscenes play too, and there are a number of other
animation effects which add a little something to the mix. Game scenes
are richly drawn, and despite the grimy nature of the plot, it
unmistakeably looks Pendulo. Which is a very good thing.
The little things make a
difference. The flickering candles, the pendulum you can set swinging,
the steam on the mirror. There is not a lot of “background” movement in
the game world, but what there is makes an impression, and at no time do
things seem stodgy or lifeless.
The sound palette is excellent,
and the musical score particularly well used. I often turn that right
down, or even off, when given the opportunity. But here it adds lustre,
and even a cinematic feel at times.
There are some new touches in
Yesterday, best among them the movement of the characters. Click on
the environment and John (or one of the other characters you get to
occasionally play) will walk there; click on a hotspot and John will
“jump” to that spot and interact with it. He kind of fades out in one
place and fades back in at the hotspot. It sounds odd but it isn’t, and
I loved not having to take the long walk across the room or double click
to make him run. More of this in games, please.
New too is a hint system that
nudges you where you need to go, but is then only available again after
a little time has passed. Try it too soon and it will tell you something
like “try a few things first”. I used it sporadically, as the game is
not too hard, and it ensures that the narrative continues to flow. Some
may think Yesterday is a little easy, but I thought it struck a
good balance between doing things and keeping things moving.
Like all such games, there are
those “why on earth would I think to do that” interactions, but they are
mercifully few. Of course, the fact that I wouldn’t think to do it
doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t. But on any objective scale, some are a
Interestingly, there is no voice
acting in the scene descriptions. Clicking on items and hotspots will
generate written descriptions, some quite detailed, all of it to be
read. I thought it fitted in well, and was akin to the character having
thoughts about what was being looked at or achieved, as opposed to
talking out loud to himself. Some players though might feel a little
Using or examining inventory
items is a little jittery, and there were times I “examined” when I
wanted to “use”, but it’s a relatively simple and trouble-free
interface. Almost everything is done with the left mouse, the right
mouse being used only (to my recollection) for exiting a “close-up”
window and putting inventory items away. Examining a hotspot or
inventory item will open a window, with icons appearing within that
window to enable further actions. Dragging items from the inventory
ribbon allows you to use them in the game world or on each other. Not
everything you collect will be used, and chapter changes will tend to
empty unnecessary items.
There is an icon to reveal
hotspots, which causes them to twinkle briefly, and which you might need
to poke more than once in order to register them all. Some hotspots are
quite small, and I did use the icon a number of times. It will identify
the exits too.
Another icon gives access to
some basic gameplay information, and a little star icon opens the
autosave screen. I wasn’t even aware the game was autosaving, but by the
end there were about 10 or 11 of them by memory. Apart from these
autosaves, the only save function is when you exit the game, which is
actually all you need. Don’t panic when it doesn’t ask you to save
before exiting – it will happen – and you automatically return to that
point next time you play.
Don’t panic either if you didn’t
exit close to the end of the game. One of the autosaves occurs just
before the point at which you choose how to conclude the game, enabling
you to easily access the various conclusions. Just restart, and then
access the autosave icon.
So much for the mechanics. The
heart and tormented soul of this game is the story, and the characters
that drive it. The only one I could have done without was Pauline, a
love interest that really wasn’t necessary, and all the more
disappointing after the incredibly wonderful Liz Allaire in The Next
BIG Thing. The rest though had the right mix of madness or stoicism,
depending upon their nature, and the voice acting was solid and suited
to the characters throughout. They also anchor the events in the madness
of men, which is where it belongs.
There is some language – not a
lot of it – but colourful nonetheless, and some rather graphic torture
suggestions in one of the endings. There is also violence (and
occasionally torture) depicted or suggested throughout, so be warned if
those things offend or are not to your taste.
There is some humour as well,
largely in the form of certain characters – Albert the desk clerk and
blind master Adirf come to mind. And there is the occasional gem to be
found elsewhere (check out the Happy Dale sign and make sure to examine
the civil war picture in the antique shop). The Poet of Pain also makes
a brief self-deprecating appearance, albeit in a different form.
can be over-the-top, and it bucks and weaves its way along. Its mood can
swing dramatically, making it a little jarring but all the more powerful
as a result. It grabbed me from the start, and left me well pleased.
It’s a worthy addition to the Pendulo stable, and may there be more of
I played on:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz
Ram: 4.00GB DDR2 400MHz
Gx card: ATI Radeon HD 3850 512Mb
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