Pixelhunter – Yesterday

Having recently bemoaned the lack of decent horror point and click adventures, it was with great interest that I started to play Yesterday. Famous for their quirky, cartoony Runaway series, this is not a game you would expect from Spanish developers Pendulo Studios, but it clearly demonstrates that they are looking to stretch themselves creatively. The opening montage is a grab bag of horror tropes: a wall scrawled with the mad conspiratorial ramblings of a disquiet mind, check;  alchemical components and a candle dotted pentangle, check; abrupt screams and jerky camera, check; and an unsettling tune being whistled by an unseen figure ala Fritz Lang’s M, check. You can add to that: themes of Satanism, suicide, sadism and torture. It’s to the game’s credit that it take its loose assortment of scary themes and aesthetic devices and crafts them into a clever and immersive adventure against the odds; relying on good old fashioned atmosphere and unsettling plot developments over cheap scares. Pendulo have taken the cartoony cell shaded style of Runaway and veered it into much darker terrain, without losing the quirky charm for which they are famed.

Someone had been watching too many SAW movies

The game’s prelude sees you in the shoes of a geeky teenager named Henry White, who is heir to a small fortune, working for a charity attempting to look after the city’s homeless. There’s a serial killer on the loose killing and burning vagrants and White has taken it upon himself to investigate a creepy abandoned subway station, but as it transpires, his motives aren’t exactly pure. Cut to the present day and we’re introduced to the game’s true protagonist, amnesiac John Yesterday, whose only clue to his past is a strange ‘Y’ burned into his palm and the lies that Henry White is spinning him.

Because there aren’t enough ginger villains in games…

It would be too much of a spoiler to explain why, but the game delights in using its story as a pretext to leap between time periods and disparate locales, gradually knitting together the characters’ relationships and revealing the whole sordid mess that John has wound up in. Pendulo Studios set a cracking pace and even at its most farfetched (a whole sequence involving being trained in the ‘unseen sense’ by a monk in the Himalayas) the story is never short of engrossing. It’s a pity, then, that the game isn’t slightly longer, as just when you begin to take satisfactions in the Nolan-esque fragmented narrative the conclusion veers unexpectedly and unwelcomely into view.

At £20 the price point does seem a bit high for a 3-4 hour game, but it really is tremendously well made, and although the puzzles are unlikely to stump you for long, they are generally well executed, even though they will make you wonder why everyone seems intent to lock away their belongings with such labyrinthine and arcane security measures.

One of the story’s more fanciful moments

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