Pendulo Studios’ Yesterday Origins is a point-and-click adventure focusing around its immortal protagonist, John Yesterday, with a few puzzles scattered throughout each section. During his adventures the player will encounter an odd cast of characters, experience some cheeky humor, and be introduced to some interesting story concepts that, sadly, fall flat.
John Yesterday has undergone an occult ritual that has left him immortal – with a twist. Each time he dies he loses his memory and is resurrected the same age as when he died the first time. It turns out John has something of a history; during the medieval era he was declared the “Devil’s Son” due to his gift for understanding foreign languages.
The opening sequence starts out with John having to escape from his cell, but by tricking his guard he manages to slip away into the night with a man named Gines who promises to show John his true potential.
Following the opening sequence, the player learns the dungeon scene was a reoccurring dream John has been having. He wakes up in the present day with his girlfriend, Pauline, who also underwent the same ritual that made her immortal. Unlike John, she retains her memories each time she dies due to a component being included in her ritual that was missing from her boyfriend’s. Together, they have to solve the mystery of John’s immortality and deal with a dangerous antagonist who may know his secret.
The point-and-click adventure genre is self-explanatory, but unlike other titles I’ve played in the past Yesterday Origins makes an attempt to provide a linear, streamlined experience. Instead of making you click randomly, the game offers a mechanic called “Points of Interest”, highlighting items in the area to complete the next objective. This mechanic also works when an object is picked up and has to be turned around to combine it with another item or unlock a hidden mechanism.
There’s also a running commentary in the form of text along the bottom of the screen during certain actions and cut scenes, providing hints on how to complete certain objectives to progress the story. While I’m unsure of how to feel about this handholding, in certain areas the mechanic proved to be a huge help.
Switching between characters is another interesting mechanic I didn’t expect to find in Yesterday Origins. While there’s not many sections where it’s used, it felt poorly executed. John and Pauline often have to work together to complete certain objectives or to find certain items for each other. During certain areas the mechanic works well, but in others where the two characters have to move through multiple sections it can be difficult to work with.
During my time with these two characters I would have to switch in between them to move them towards each other. When I would switch over to John, Pauline would disappear from the area he was in and end up back at her default location. While the mechanic isn’t a game breaker by any means, it was frustrating having to move them back and forth several times.
I’ve said in the past I’m not a patron of super awesome amazing lifelike graphics, but here’s a game that could stand a little polish. There were several animation sequences showing John performing an action, but against a black background. There was no transition, backdrop, or anything to indicate he wasn’t floating in some random abyss. To be fair, this may have been an artistic decision, but the way it left John floating in the black space seemed out of touch in what I came to think of a fairly vibrant universe he and the other characters existed in.
The design of the characters was hit and miss several times, too. Faces felt too clean with little fine detail to them, defining features, or wide range of expressions. The little emotions they did show barely registered on their faces at which left entire scenes feeling empty.
Voice acting in Yesterday Origins was lukewarm as well, and that’s being generous. There were instances where the voice behind the character talking did feel as if it was genuine and in rare moments natural, but again it completely fell flat. I could all but hear the script being read whenever one of the characters would start to speak. This broke what little immersion there was to be had and, in some cases, I almost wish they had remained completely silent instead.
The only saving grace I can give the game are the oddly detailed, vibrant, and often engaging backgrounds they’ve come up with. These were by far the best parts of the game since each new area was well fleshed out and presented quite a bit of scenery to admire. Pauline’s studio stands as a good example of this since it’s scattered antiques from different eras, tools for restoring old relics, and presents an atmosphere of being lived in and hours of work being conducted.
Character concepts were interesting, but never seemed to truly go anywhere. Baxter, for example, caught my interest since early on there’s a lot of attention given to the fact everyone in her family suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and she donates frequently to medical institutions. There’s even several mentions of Baxter sending out e-mails and continually forgetting she’d made appointments with other people. During her interactions with Pauline and John, Baxter would also suffer a random mood swing where she’s being extremely rude and in the next second she’s talking business with them over the price of an antique.
This attention detail caught me off guard for Baxter’s development and honestly impressed me. During Baxter’s storyline I was waiting for a big reveal or some conclusion to be reached about her predicament. Despite the buildup and wealth of information given about her, the fact Baxter is (most likely) a sufferer of Alzheimer’s is never mentioned again. None of the characters bring it up, and it never plays a part in the grander scheme of the storyline that had been set out.
There’s a part of me that wanted dearly to like Yesterday Origins for what it was, but in all honesty, I often felt like I was playing through an unfinished project. The concepts and ideas for a good experience are present, but there’s simply has too many plot holes by its conclusion to even begin to make sense, without even a mediocre epilogue to tie up loose ends. Sequences exploring John’s past in medieval times are interesting and present tasks that actually make sense, but a lack of polish and attention to detail make this point-and-click adventure one to skip.