Yesterday Origins Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Pendulo Studios
Release Date: May 31st 2018
Price as of Article: £26.79 GBP
Game code provided by Microids for review
Yesterday Origins is actually the second game in the Yesterday series. Slightly odd we didn’t get the first on the Switch, but it’s not so important considering the story here feels separated enough that I didn’t feel I needed it. What makes this more interesting as a story is that it switches between the past and the present. Something which took me by surprise at first, in a pleasant way.
You are John Yesterday. You meet your character as he is being dragged away by a jailer, on his way to be thrown in the dungeons in preparation for his execution. He has been accused of devilry by the Spanish Inquisition. Not content to be tortured to death, he makes his bid for freedom.
After escaping, the story is whisked away to the present day as John, yes the very same, awakes to his mundane modern life. John is immortal. How and why is the whole journey of the game. The game flings between various sections of the past and present as John tries to achieve different goals in each. In the past he is trying to understand the dark arts under his sinister master’s guidance, in the present he and his immortal girlfriend are trying to understand why John is the way he is. This is because every time John is supposed to perish, he is reborn at the same age he became immortal, but without his memory.
This brings in plenty of opportunity to explore the different lives John has throughout his perpetual existence and, while it doesn’t explore it to its full extent (to keep the story focused), you do get touches here and there. I was fascinated about all the kind of lives John had lived and I would have loved to play more episodes of his life. And yes, as stated, this is a sequel/prequel game but I want to know more. I want the original game come to the Switch and potentially more from the series.
Why? Because I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, the intricate woven narrative of different timelines, and the characters were rather likeable too. I like that John is liable to having different personalities in different lives depending on how he’s been influenced. I think the writers of Yesterday Origins do have a talent that I would like to see more of.
As you’d expect the story is a huge part of the experience of an adventure game and they really nailed it for me. I was hooked as to where the story would go next, how things would turn out and where would we end up? The whirlwind adventure of locations from Spain, Britain, France and New York; you’ve got a very interesting and varied adventure game.
Yesterday Origins is your standard point and click adventuring, just without any pointing and click. Taking the modern approach to the genre, you control your character with the analogue stick, obviously much suited to the console set up. You have free roam in the often small environments and can interact with highlighted objects with the A button. I have to admit, it’s slightly more finicky than I would have like, for example sometimes the game doesn’t recognise the place of interest if you’re too close to it. You need to stand a little back sometimes which annoying.
For the interface, it’s pretty full on at first and it takes a little more thought than your average point and click adventure game. For a start you can inspect objects in the environment, to take an early perfect example, there is a cauldron in your cell which you can look at and then pan the camera around with the right analogue stick to inspect various parts of it. The material it’s made of, the inside and the hot coals beneath are all available to talk about but, like any adventure game, most of them are red herrings.
While there’s a lot of story to wade through and dialogue to listen to and read, it’s the puzzles that are the primary part of the game. Each situation has some kind of puzzle that needs to be addressed. Not your normal kind of game puzzles like sliding tiles or anything but real situations. You can pick items from the environment of which most serve some sort of purpose. Naturally you can mix them together to use on other things or people. That’s pretty standard but there’s a very investigative flavour to this one compared to what I’m used to. Puzzles in which you know what you have to do, or are guessing what you have to do, need to be justified with the hints that you’ve picked up from dialogue picks or visual clues. You’ll often find yourself selecting an item to interact with something and then choosing a reason why you want to do it.
This adds a whole new layer to the adventure game norm but I still don’t know if I appreciate it or not. I can see what they’re going for but at the end of the day when the puzzles naturally come off illogical, or don’t match with your deductions and what the game thinks you should have deduced, it can still be as unsatisfying as the rest of the games of the genre at times. And it’s still so easy to keep randomly guessing if you want to.
Saying that, the puzzles are still enjoyable, interesting and challenging overall and the illogical parts are only in a few instances. While these clues do add another layer of gameplay, it doesn’t actually change or solve anything that was already prevalent in the genre.
I mentioned it’s challenging, because yes, you will probably get stuck a fair amount of times. You may even resort to walkthroughs on occasions which can be very unrewarding, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. I think adventure game fans will feel right at home with this one though.
Aside from the puzzling aspect and story, there’s very little else to the gameplay of Yesterday Origins. It’s slow paced and methodical. You won’t find anything thrilling or super intensive and that’s fine by me. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I love kicking back on a Sunday afternoon with a nice cup of tea and settling down to test my brain and also enjoy a story. For that, Yesterday Origins does it well.
The overall interface is decently done, you access the inventory with the left shoulder button and the hints section with the right, it’s nothing overly complicated. There’s no dragging items around which is a relief, it’s all instantaneously done. I did find some annoyances with combining items however. The game is very particular about which item you chose first so if you think two items should come together but the game won’t have it, maybe switch which one you pick first. It’s odd this happens and can lead you on the wrong path.
The audio is a bit of a mixed bag. The music is fine enough if a bit random at times. There’ll be moments of intense quiet with only environmental noises, then suddenly out of nowhere music will fly in for a few seconds before disappearing again. What is here though is nice and varied, different styles to match the mood and stuff. It’s pretty good, but pretty random.
The voice acting can range from really good to decent depending on the character. Some of them did kind of remind me of after school TV shows in England when I was a kid, but it’s mostly very good and I can’t complain. Maybe a couple of the lesser characters weren’t quite up to the higher standards set by more important ones, but it’s still a fine effort.
Visually I think it’s a mixed bag. It’s really weird actually because it’s the opposite of what is the norm in what you’d find in other games. In most games through history the cutscenes usually look far more fantastic than the gameplay. However in Yesterday Origins, the normal gameplay looks far better than the early to mid-2000’s cutscenes we see here. I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not but the cutscenes are really retro and really bring down the quality of the presentation. Compressed and cheaply animated with a less than appealing style, it’s just odd because the rest of the game looks fantastic. It does have a slightly nostalgic charm to it though and if you were an adventure game fan in the mid-2000’s with the Syberia series and such, this may bring a smile to your face. I don’t know if that’s intentional though.
I suppose I do like the direction in the cutscenes; scenes pop up almost in a comic book panel style, showing things from different angles and perspectives. It’s very stylistic and well thought out, it’s just a shame it doesn’t look better.
The backgrounds fair much better though. They are beautifully hand drawn, almost deceptively so. In some scenes you really have to look to see that they’ve been hand drawn, sometimes it’s a bit more obvious especially outside one of the castles but I think it looks really lovely.
Priced at £26.79 on the UK store, Yesterday Origins, like many of Microids efforts, commands a more premium price than most. It’s also extra irksome that Yesterday Origins is also available on Steam for far, far less. I think as a starting price, it’s not bad. It’s lengthy enough for an adventure game and has the quality to go along with it. But it should be cheaper, no question. A sub-20 UK price would have been sweet enough for me, so you may want to wait for a 20% sale if one ever comes along.
Cheap looking cutscenes