Yesterday Origins Review – PC

Yesterday Origins is a new adventure game from veteran studio, Pendulo known for their expertise in the genre. When the game starts out you find yourself accused of nothing less than being “Satan’s son” and tossed into a prison cell suitable for the Spanish Inquisition. Your first task is to escape the cell and make it to the opening title screen using nothing but your wits, a half-dozen random items, and some exhausting conversation skills.

I’m no stranger to adventure games or solving puzzles so imagine my shock and embarrassment when I ultimately had to go online to seek solutions to this very first dilemma. But then after seeing what was expected of me I realized, “OH…it’s one of those adventure games.” You know the kind – with crazy off-the-wall solutions using MacGyver-style contraptions. My embarrassment was tempered by the fact that I knew I would have never figured out “that solution” in a million years.

Once you escape your cell and the title credits roll you find yourself in a more modern setting, now as a grown up version of John where it is quickly revealed that you are immortal but every time you die you come back with no previous memories and must re-educate yourself using cool tech tricks like a video phone message and your very own website. Think of it as “50 First Dates” only with much more history to be learned with each reincarnation.

Your gal pal, Pauline is also immortal but retains her memories giving her a casual disregard for death to the point where it’s easier to reset the biological clock with a bullet than to use some cream to remove those wrinkles under her eyes. Yes, that’s a minor spoiler and also the second puzzle that sent me Googling the web within the first hour of the game. And it doesn’t get much easier from there.

I certainly don’t mind a certain degree of difficulty in my adventures games, but Yesterday Origins seems to rely on a few core ideas; exhaust every last topic of communication, analyze every item and concept in your inventory, and fumble hopelessly around with all of your components to assemble the proper solution in the Sherlock Holmes-style puzzle solver screen.

Yes, Yesterday Origins borrows much from the recent batch of Sherlock games including zooming in and rotating people and objects to discover further info and clues. There is also the solution screen that slowly builds your solution by having you insert people or objects into component boxes, exactly like solving a case in Sherlock Holmes. It’s a pretty nifty mechanic and I can see why they borrowed it, but everything leading up to that point can often be an exercise in frustration.

Much of the time you are free to choose between John and Paulina, but it’s usually just about exhausting all the options rather than any intelligence to the game design. The game not only supports a gamepad, it nearly demands one as the mouse and keyboard controls are so awful you’d think this was a console port.   There are some nifty ideas in play with people and concepts being sorted to the right trigger while tangible items are accessed via the left. Combing things is usually just a matter of clicking them sequentially or accessing the environment followed by an item or person.

Presentation is outstanding and Yesterday Origins has a gorgeous cel-shaded art style about it rich in color and quirky charm. Some of the scenes were breathtaking and the entire experience reminded me of games like Broken Sword, and Dreamfall. While there were a few missteps in dialogue, most of the voice work was exceptionally well-acted and totally convincing.

Yesterday Origins is a nice length, clocking in between 10-12 hours (maybe longer if you don’t Google solutions) and loaded with original characters and interesting locations and events tied into real history. There is a lot of depth and backstory, even for the supporting cast. While you might get frustrated with the obtuse puzzles, you’ll never be bored with the story.

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