I wonder sometimes if we've been so spoiled by FPS titles and fast-paced RPGs that we're now incapable of dealing with games that require genuine thought. Games like Call of Duty, with their constant drip-feed of adrenaline and excitement have so eroded my patience that any in-game conundrum usually sends me alt-tabbing to GameFaqs.com.
We used to love adventure games, but nowadays we find we just don't have the endurance to play them - we're too used to immediate gratification to spend ages point-and-clicking.
Thank goodness for Yesterday then; an adventure game designed for people with attention spans shorter than a baby in a wheelchair. Yesterday wastes no time setting up backstory or dribbling out crucial scene-setting information - it jumps straight in at the deep end and weaves a story that's all about catching up to the past. Puzzles are clearly introduced, areas are self-contained and characters swapped around to keep things constantly interesting.
Click to enlarge
So, while the tale starts off with players cast as young millionaire-to-be Henry White as he works for a local homeless charity, it doesn't stay that way for long. It's only a short while before we're whisked into another set of boots, then pushed forwards through the timeline and introduced to new characters, who hop around the globe as trying to unravel the mysteries. It's all very fast and slickly assembled, to the extent that it can be a little bewildering to keep up.
Right from the start there's a lot going on in the plot - murderers are targeting homeless communities, age-old satanic cults are suddenly resurfacing and the only man who's investigating the problem turns up amnesiac after a failed suicide attempt. Into this mess are shoved a variety of strange characters, most central of which is John Yesterday - the amnesiac investigator and global authority on strange cults.
Despite telling a convoluted and fast-paced story however, Pendulo manages to keep the game accessible and easy to pick up through the art style and interface design. Similar to the original Broken Sword games, the inventory is run pictorially along the bottom of the screen, but interaction with items is mostly automatic - there are no verbs to select. Instead, actions are context-sensitive or represented in clear icons that pop up in attractive comic-book like panels.
Click to enlarge
The art style of Yesterday however, while clear and striking, feels like it fails to mesh with the other elements of the game's design. The story, for example, is mature and adult, with murders and swearing in just the opening acts - yet the caricature-like art undermines this. Certain characters also contribute to this dilution of tone, both through the quality of animation, writing and voice acting.
Overt dark humour is often woven in at counter-productive points, with the most obvious example being in the opening chapter when one character is called to save another from being executed. Rather than rushing or displaying any sort of interest, the saviour character wanders calmly around, kept company by memories of a bullying scoutmaster who teases him and goads him towards the correct solution. The result, while definitely funny, also shatters any of the tension or excitement caught up in the scene - and sadly turns out to be an on-going issue.