Yesterday Origins is the latest point-and-click adventure from Pendulo Studios. It’s the sequel to Yesterday, which was released way back in 2012, and which introduced us to the character John Yesterday, who is immortal… but only in a sense. Each time John dies, his body rejuvenates, but he loses his memory so he has to start over with who he is, unless he leaves himself notes. In Yesterday Origins, John decides to end his affliction.
The interface for Yesterday Origins is pretty simple. You click where you want John to move, and you click on hotspots to examine them. Each hotspot opens up into a zoomed-in view of part of the current scene, which you can then examine (by panning and / or rotating the view) for sub-hotspots. The sub-hotspots are spaced out so you can only have one active at a time, and that’s when you can click on them to examine them or use an inventory item on them. This probably sounds more complicated than it is.
Pendulo designed the game so it would work on the Xbox One and the PS4 as well as the PC, and so the interface was crafted with a controller in mind, but it works decently well with a mouse. I just wish that the hotspot panning and scrolling had used the WASD keys or something rather than the click-and-drag scheme currently employed by the game. I found it was way too easy to click outside of the hotspot view (which closes the window and forces you to start over) when trying to pan. And because the game only allows one sub-hotspot to be active at a time, the hotspot views are zoomed way in and require way more panning than I’m guessing anybody is likely to enjoy.
The puzzles in Yesterday Origins are standard fare for adventure games these days. Almost all of them are inventory-based, where you collect items and then use them at the right sub-hotspot. So as long as you can detect all of the inventory items and all of the sub-hotspots, the game is easy. You just have to try everything everywhere to complete the puzzles. There are also two non-inventory puzzles, but sort of annoyingly, they require you to remember things from earlier in the game. That doesn’t sound bad, but the interface doesn’t give you any way to review previous happenings, so if you don’t remember the right answer, and if you didn’t write it down, then your only recourse (so far as I can tell) is to start a new game and play it until the information is mentioned.
I also wasn’t thrilled with the story. In Yesterday, Pendulo included a murder mystery to hook you into the game, but there isn’t anything like that in Yesterday Origins. If you don’t particularly care about John Yesterday’s history and his odd affliction, or if after four years you don’t remember a lot about him, then the game doesn’t do anything to get you involved. Right from the start John tries to remember his past, which allows you to play some vignettes as earlier versions of him, but the lack of hook and the changing characters meant I didn’t really care about anybody.
Plus, the characters you meet are largely repulsive. In one long vignette, John is a torturer for a satanic cult, and he loves his work — but he never tortures children, so he’s a good guy, right? And then there’s John’s girlfriend Pauline, who you get to control sometimes. She has the same affliction as John except that she keeps her memory, so her solution for things like wrinkles is to kill herself so she transforms back to a younger body. And these are the characters you’re supposed to be rooting for. You don’t even want to know about the bad guys.
Luckily, while I didn’t enjoy Yesterday Origins for most of the time that I played it, the ending was clever and worked pretty well, and that saved the game for me. Still, I can’t overlook ten bad hours for one good one. The story is dull and does little to establish an emotional connection, I didn’t like any of the characters involved, and the puzzles are at best workmanlike. If you were a fan of Yesterday, then Yesterday Origins might be a worthwhile purchase for you, but otherwise you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Reviewed By: Steven Carter
This review is based on a digital copy of Yesterday Origins for the PC provided by Microids.