Don’t you hate it when you die, only to find yourself reborn again with absolutely no memory of who you were the first time around? Because that’s precisely the predicament the ridiculously named John Yesterday, hero of the Yesterday games, finds himself in.
Yesterday Origins is a classic point-and-click adventure game. In fact, it’s difficult to pitch this as anything other than a Broken Sword wannabe. From the historical aspects to the light and breezy tone to the Parisian setting in the second level, it’s everything that Broken Sword could’ve been, if it had the balls to not be very good.
OK, perhaps that’s harsh. It’s not that Yesterday Origins isn’t great – it’s a whole lot of fun. It’s just that it’s nowhere near as refined as the game it’s aping. So those controls can be slightly fiddly, and the graphics not quite as smart, though they are very stylish. Perhaps the very worst part is the actor who voices hero John. We’re not even kidding when we say we almost stopped playing the game based on just how nightmarish it is. It’s not just that his voice sounds like the whine of a Skoda submerged in syrup, it’s that the poor guy has clearly never read words before, has never felt real emotions and never, in his life, heard how real people talk. Remember how lame the acting was in Resident Evil? That was Oscar-winning compared to this.
That’s a shame, because actually the script is a pretty sharp fruit. There are some decent jokes, some genuine mystery, but it’s completely let down by one man’s refusal to act. To emote. To read off a cue card without doing so in the staccato fashion of an alien who’s unfamiliar with words. Actually, it’s not just John that’s the problem here – audio as a whole is poor, with choppy music cutting in and out as camera angles change, or new lines of enquiry open.
But mostly, it’s John. We hate John. We hate his sharp, weaselly face and his lack of personality and his nails-on-chalkboard voice. It’s a shame he’ll only be resurrected if we kill him.
Thankfully, you’re not stuck with Mr. Uncharismatic all the time. Much like in the aforementioned Broken Sword, your time’s also split playing as John’s modern-day lover, Pauline. This is a dame who is similarly immortal but she at least remembers who she is when she resurrects. She’s also a total bad-ass: Her intro in this game has you finding a handgun, a bullet and turning on the shower in order to shoot yourself. Why? Because you’ll rise again younger, and without so many wrinkles. Please note: For folks like you and I, it’s probably easier to use facial creams. And at least the voice-over artist can, to some small degree, act.
You don’t have to play the previous game in the series – we haven’t – but it would probably help; sure, there’s enough exposition to keep newcomers involved, so the plot, which should be confusing as hell, is pretty easily understood. But it’s all the other stuff, the references to characters and events, the in-jokes, that would be far better experienced with more detailed knowledge of the proceedings in 2012’s Yesterday.
No story spoilers here, but the game itself runs along two parallel timelines: We open during the Spanish Inquisition (one of the least friendly places in history), jump forward to the present-day and back again. That’s an interesting Assassin’s Creed-style set-up, except here the present-day sections are actually fun to play. Actually, across the board, gameplay is terrific fun, as you hunt for clues, question NPCs and collect items to aid your progress. Much like others in the genre, the world’s full of genuinely grotesque and memorable characters that breathe real life into the game.
And, of course, there are going to be moments of frustration, as you struggle to figure out your next steps and find yourself idly YouTubing walkthroughs not to cheat, but ‘just to double-check your ideas’. That’s a glorious staple of the genre, too (followed by the adrenaline rush that comes from overcoming a challenge). But then, everything in Yesterday Origins is. Like we said, it’s a classic point-and-click adventure, so it doesn’t aim to change the genre, but instead revels in its roots.
But again, we just keep coming back to that tragic voice acting. We can’t see past it. We can’t hear anything other than the stiff delivery. And it ruins the immersion of a game we desperately wanted to enjoy – it should’ve been an 8/10 game; it could’ve been an 8/10 game, but that acting… The game really does deserve better – everything else perfectly ticks the box: The puzzles are fiendishly tricky, the writing is witty, and once you get to grips with the not-particularly-slick controls, you may even love it.
Yesterday Origins is available in the Store now, priced £31.99
Adventure time with an old-school point-and-click.
Pros: Clever storytelling and genuinely puzzling mysteries to be solved. There’s a nice line in tongue-in-cheek humour too. It’s everything a point-and-click adventurer could ask for.
Cons: That voice-acting. Oh god…