Despite what some people believe, the point-and-click adventure genre isn’t getting brought back from the dead by Tim Schafer, Ron Gilbert and their Kickstarter experiment, Double Fine Adventure. While that effort has earned more than to $2 million from players who want to see Gilbert and Schafer return to their LucasArts glory, it seems that many have overlooked the fact that there are plenty of developers creating point-and-click adventure titles for PC right now.
One of those titles is Yesterday, a point-and-click adventure from Spanish developer Pendulo Studios. It marks a departure for Pendulo, which generally makes adventure games that are more of the comedic variety. But after about an hour spent with Yesterday, it’s pretty clear comedy isn’t the game’s target — creepiness is.
The game starts with a heavily edited blast of murderous imagery. Set in New York City, the story starts with a pair of volunteers, Henry and Cooper, who work with an outreach group that is meant to help the city’s homeless. As the story begins, homeless people in the city have been targeted by a serial killer, their bodies found burned and unrecognizable. The opening cinematic conveys the horror story vibe of the whole idea, showing a wall that includes newspaper clippings, splashes of red that could be blood and strange writing — perhaps an investigation, or perhaps the deranged record-keeping of the killer him/her/themselves. Flashes of victims’ terrified faces sell it even further: we’re dealing with someone who’s pretty disturbed.
Cut to a pair of buddies in a van wearing what look like letter jackets. These are the preview’s main characters, Henry and Cooper. Henry is a thin nebbish guy with glasses and a lack of physical prowess, where Cooper is a bit duller and a good deal huger; their relationship immediately hearkens to that of George and Lenny in Of Mice and Men. The pair are part of a group that seeks out and attempts to help the homeless, and despite the warnings of their superiors, they’re headed to an abandoned subway station to see if anyone needs their services.
Henry enters the tunnel first, wandering about in classic adventure game style. Yesterday does a good job of precluding you from the more boring bits of adventure games — namely, steering your calm, slow-moving character around the screen in order to interact with things. Instead, as you find and click on hotspots spread around the screen, Henry basically warps over to them, saving you precious seconds.
The entire game is presented in textual narration in a comic book style. Interacting with objects gives you the opportunity to examine them, which gives you a bit of information presented in a second-person “Choose Your Own Adventure” book kind of way, or to try to use or take them. As with most games in the genre, before long, you’ll be carrying a great deal of what seems like garbage, trying to figure out how to use it.