Pendulo Studios' Yesterday is a lot like most point-and-click adventure games. At the same time, it's very, very different. Those two contradictory sentences make more sense than you might think, and if you've played plenty of adventure games in the past, you'll see exactly what I mean upon playing Yesterday. With that said, let's get one thing out of the way before moving on; Yesterday is a four-hour game that costs $30. Is that a tad on the pricey side? Yes. Should you still shell out the cash to play the game if you dig this genre? Definitely.
You play as an amnesiac named John Yesterday. The poor fella can't remember anything about his life, and he must rely solely on himself to figure out the mystery by putting together any and all clues to piece together his past. Yes, there are multiple characters — each with an agenda of their own — that act as puzzle pieces to the big mystery, but I say John can only rely on himself because, ultimately, Yesterday becomes a game of survival; it becomes a story of madness, the occult, life, and death, and you can bet there's plenty to go around.
Yesterday initially has you playing as a young man named Henry White and his big dumb oaf of a friend Sam Cooper, who are working for an organization established to help homeless people. The duo investigate an old abandoned train tunnel where they encounter Choke and Boris, two insane men who become even more important to the game's plot just when you think you're done with them.
The story later evolves into the journey of the aforementioned John Yesterday, who's working closely with an adult Henry White to recapture his memory. The ways in which John remembers bits of his past in Yesterday are absolutely brilliant. One moment, you'll see a magnificently deep cutscene that explains the story further. The next moment, you're actually placed in John's past, required to play through key moments in his life that are just coming back to him.
Adventure games are supposed to be heavy on plot elements. That's just the way the genre is. Yesterday, like most proper adventure games, is entirely character-driven. What sets it apart from a lot of other adventure games is that it tells its story in truly genius ways. Rather than having you play through different chronological scenarios, Yesterday constantly shifts the setting. You unravel John's past by traveling to different countries, visiting numerous time periods, and solving mysteries as multiple characters.
The only issue I really had with this design is that, at times, I felt like I wasn't seamlessly placed in these different scenarios. The shift was often abrupt, and adjusting to the different sequences was a bit disorienting at times. But once I knew where the heck I was and what I was doing, Yesterday went back to being a game that joyously messed with my mind, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Of course, while traveling through different eras, locations, and countries is awesome, it's the writing in Yesterday that really makes this an adventure game worth experiencing. Characters are smart, witty, and adult. Pendulo intended on going in a decidedly dark direction with Yesterday, and it succeeded. The game will have you laughing at certain characters' quirky attributes one moment, and then it'll put a bullet in those same characters mere minutes later. Yesterday is dastardly, but in an incredibly intelligent way.
There is no shortage of plot twists and character turns. People I thought I could trust turned out to be sinister masterminds, and just when I thought I was getting an idea of where the game would take me next, it put me up in a mountain where a younger, bald-headed John was being trained the art of the sword by his blind master.
This all may sound a bit confusing, and that's because it kind of is. If you're paying close attention to the dialogue and cutscenes in Yesterday, it will be a lot easier to keep track of everything that's happening. That's why it's imperative that you don't skip any of the animated sequences, and it's just as important that you listen to everything that everyone you encounter tells you.
Aside from the mind-blowing story in Yesterday, you're also presented with mostly traditional point-and-click gameplay. You'll collect and combine items to progress, search high and low for clues, and solve puzzles using your resources and wit. Yesterday adds some nice touches to distinguish itself from a lot of other adventure games, such as allowing you to click an icon in your onscreen actions menu to have all interactive hotspots highlighted for a few seconds and letting you activate a hint system by doing enough in any given room to fill the hint meter, which you may need at times, because the game can be a bit confusing and misleading at times.
Yesterday also looks really good, and the animated style of Pendulo is used effectively. These folks managed to take a cartoon-like art style and made it work within the confines of a truly chilling and insane story. Animations are great, too, and the only real gripe I had was with the characters' odd lip movements when they spoke. The voice acting is also gold for the most part. Some characters are more effective than others, but overall, lines are delivered impressively by almost everyone you meet during the course of the game. It's just a shame the music is so dull and uninteresting.
Ultimately, Yesterday is one of the best point-and-click adventure games to come along in recent memory. Yes, from a gameplay perspective, this is another PC adventure game. But when you throw in the beautifully dark plot, horrifyingly mysterious characters, and fiendishly clever plot devices that literally toss you around the game's world at will, there's no denying that Yesterday is a must for fans of the genre. If you're not into playing these types of games, then I would recommend that you at least watch someone play, because this intense story of sheer madness deserves to be witnessed.