I love a colourful and well-designed game that will test my skill levels, and provides me with a unique concept to keep me interested. When I was offered the game YesterMorrow to review, I instantly warmed to the art style and the concept, but was put off by the genre. It’s a puzzle/platform adventure title that asks you to leap, roll and solve problems to overcome obstacles and save your family. The storyline isn’t unique, but the main concept that is intertwined through the gameplay made for an intriguing proposition. Time travel, and a lack of combat form the spine of this otherwise well designed 2D platform adventure.
Developed by Bitmap Galaxy and published by Blowfish Studios, you control the life of a young girl named Yui. The daughter of the village timekeeper, and someone who will define their own future, by travelling through the past. You are expected to follow the set paths to find temples and houses to explore. Chains and webs must be climbed, and platforms traversed to pass gaping chasms. The platforming element is nothing new, but what it presents is enjoyable and will test your skill as you try to progress.
The story plays second fiddle.
The main principle of the story is old as the hills. A village festival is about to begin, when tragedy strikes. Shadow monsters appear from the Nether, where their only aim is to control the light and cast permanent darkness upon the world. You are sent to get help from the Elders, but you fall short on your quest. Your failure ensures that your village is destroyed, and your father goes missing while he searches for your missing body. Roll on many years, and you now control an older and wiser Yui. She is haunted by her past, and her unanswered questions empower her to seek answers.
It is from this point that you gain your first of many abilities, time travel. This mechanic allows you to flit from the current day, back to the moment before the shadow beasts attacked. The aim is to find the cause of the invasion and attempt to stop it before it happens. Many other abilities are added, none of them new to the genre, and fans of platformers will feel familiar with the inclusion of double jumps, and more. Bitmap Galaxy appeared more concerned with the platforming elements that the story itself. A tepid storyline features throughout, and serves to break up the exploration, rather than a reason to be searching the surrounding area.
A great concept that was unappreciated.
I have played several puzzle/adventure games that use time travel at its heart, and each one utilised it well within the gameplay. The Great Perhaps is one that springs to mind, where constant flitting between the past and present allows you to solve the many puzzles you face. Unfortunately, it never developed to that level in YesterMorrow. I desperately hoped that the complexity of the puzzles would increase, allowing for a more in-depth experience, sadly it never came. Like the story, the gameplay simply placed all its eggs into the platform elements, and used every other mechanic as a filler.
Unsurprisingly, the platform elements are fantastic and form a great foundation for the rest of the game to be supported. It was a pleasure to work out the best way to overcome obstacles, and how to gather the many collectibles that you will find. This part is a resounding success, but I’d still consider it to be entry level, not in design, but in difficulty. The puzzle element follows suit. Veteran gamers will find it frustratingly easy, and new gamers won’t find it much harder. It was a shame that the developers failed to enhance the challenge in these parts, and had they done so, it would have been a much more solid performance all round.
The concept falls short, but the visuals and audio doesn’t.
The outstanding art style is striking and makes this title stand out. The developers have stayed away from an exclusive pixelated art style, like many of their peers. Instead, they have created a bright and colourful world that is easy on the eye. Once the shadow realm grasps control, the sinister shades and darker colours, add an ominous edge to proceedings. As well as looking great, its attention to detail is marvellous. Cute sprites represent both character and loveable animals, creating a Disney-esque world for you to enjoy. The beauty of the light juxtaposed with the ugliness of the dark generated a classic good Vs evil backdrop.
Though the story is lacking in emotion, the music does a great job in building an atmosphere. An oriental score accompanies all the action. During times of reflection a calm song rings out, setting the scene, allowing you to focus on the text. As you move through the world, a more upbeat and simple audio drifts in the background. A mixture of tempos matches what is happening, adding energy when you roll past spiders, leap snakes or avoid bats and bugs. Both the audio and the graphics support this game perfectly. If it wasn’t for both these elements and a strong platforming foundation, YesterMorrow would fall short of its desired outcome.
With no combat, it’s all about the accuracy.
A non violence ethos is rare, especially when the developers use so many monsters throughout. The game is designed so that you think on your feet. You must use your environment to overcome your enemies, and you mustn’t rely on hack ‘n’ slash techniques to proceed. This lack of button mashing allowed Bitmap Galaxy to focus on a responsive and tight control system for the other mechanics. Responsiveness and ease of controls were not an issue when using the Xbox controller. The button layout was easy to understand and didn’t take long to master. As with other elements, this was aimed at the entry level gamer.
The overall tone of this review appears that I didn’t enjoy my time playing this, and that isn’t the case. The mixture of genres has diluted the developer’s approach so much that they have missed the chance to enhance the key mechanics. If you then mix this with a weak and tired story, which is unforgivable in an adventure title, it left me hoping for more. It’s a game that is good enough that you will want to return to find all the collectibles, and you will try to unlock all the achievements. However, there are limitations to the quality, and this pulls it back from reaching its true potential. If you are looking to experience the story, you’ll need around 6 hours. If you want to complete it, 10 hours will have to be invested.
Is it worth an investment of your time and money?
As a platform game, it’s very good. The level designs are interesting, dodging your foes instead of attacking them is an interesting twist, and clambering around is fun. As an adventure title, it never truly gets off the ground, mainly because of its tired plot. The missed opportunity for me was the lack of development in the time travel mechanic. This part could have been spectacular, instead it acts like a gimmick and has the finish of an afterthought.
It’s beautifully presented, and I wish that the developers had balanced focus across the board, and not placed their eggs in a few baskets. At £16.74 it will not break the bank and is a perfectly serviceable entry level title. Do I recommend it? Maybe, I’m on the fence, but yes is my answer! I had fun, but I know what I wanted it to be. If you want to buy yourself a copy, then look no further! Can you forge your own destiny? Travel to the past to fix the future.