Yesterday is the latest point-and-click adventure from Pendulo Studios, the Spanish developer behind the Runaway trilogy and The Next Big Thing. Unlike those earlier titles, which were all quirky and humorous, Yesterday features murder, torture, suicide and satanic cults -- not to mention more profanity than you might expect -- and so it's a deviation for Pendulo, and it's definitely not a game that's suitable for families with young children.
In Yesterday, you mostly control John Yesterday, an expert on satanic cults. As the game opens up, someone has been killing homeless people by burning them and torturing them, and eventually it's decided that these murders are related to a satanic cult from the 15th century called the Order of the Flesh, which is where you come in. Unfortunately, you recently tried to kill yourself, and you're suffering from amnesia, and so along with investigating the serial killer, you're also trying to put the pieces of your life back together. Eventually, the murders, the cult, and your past life all tie in together, and the surprisingly dark and complex story works about as well as any I've seen in an adventure in recent memory.
Yesterday is played using a third-person perspective, where you move the character you're controlling from scene to scene. Each scene has a variety of hotspots that you click on to pick up objects, examine details, talk to people, or move to another scene. Oddly, the interface only uses the left mouse button, and while this mostly works fine, inventory management has some problems, as I frequently examined an object or scrolled my inventory list rather than picking up an object, which was my intent. But nicely, you never have to watch your character trudge across the screen. If you click on a hotspot on one side of the screen and then click on a hotspot on the other side, your character just "teleports" to the new spot, and so examining a scene and trying things out is less tedious than it might have been otherwise.
The puzzles in the game are almost all inventory-based, where you pick up a collection of odd things and then figure out how to use them. As an example, early in the game you find yourself in an abandoned subway station, and you have to figure out how to use some toys, a roll of duct tape, a screwdriver, box cutters, and a subway token to fix a broken pay phone. For the most part, the puzzles are straightforward -- like most adventures these days, Yesterday doesn't include much in the way of extraneous objects or locations, and so you can figure everything out through trial-and-error if necessary -- but if you have trouble, the game includes an integrated help system, plus an interface button that displays the hotspots for the current scene.
The graphics engine for Yesterday uses a cartoony look with frequent comic-book-style focus panels. This seems like it would be the wrong sort of thing for a dark and disturbing game, but it ends up working pretty well -- perhaps because it takes some of the edge off the game so it doesn't get too dark and disturbing. The voice actors also do solid work with their lines, and the translation from Spanish isn't an issue.
Overall, Yesterday is a fine adventure with a unique look, competent puzzles, and a compelling story. The only downside is that it's relatively short. It only took me a little more than five hours to complete the game, and so Pendulo definitely had some room to add in an extra chapter or two. But otherwise, as long as you don't mind some disturbing content, Yesterday is well worth its $30 price tag.
This review is based on a digital copy of Yesterday for the PC provided by Focus Home Interactive.