When The Past Was Around – Review
Follow Genre: Point-and-click puzzle game
Developer: Mojiken
Publisher: Toge Productions
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Switch
Tested on: PS4, Switch

When The Past Was Around – Review

Site Score
9.5
Good: Stunning soundtrack and art, Non-verbal storytelling
Bad: Very short
User Score
10.0
(3 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 10.0/10 (3 votes cast)

Some games manage to surprise you with their simplicity. Sometimes you don’t need grand hyperrealistic graphics, constant dialogue, and a playtime lengthy enough to fill your entire summer vacation with, for a game to become an instant favorite. When The Past Was Around from Mojiken and Toge Productions manages to do just that, telling a short but beautiful story about grief, which happens to get all the beats right, wrapped in a simple point-and-click puzzle game.

Story

Since the narrative is the main focus of this game, it is hard to say much without giving the entire story away. Without cutscenes or dialogue, only utilizing its art, When The Past Was Around follows the story of a young woman named Eda who has to deal with the loss of a loved one. During the game, you travel through weirdly connected rooms forming an abstract maze of her memories as well as a representation of her emotions, as you slowly figure out exactly what happened and how she’s dealing with it. It feels perfectly fitting for the type of story this game is trying to tell, with plenty of room for interpretation from the player while not falling in the trap of being so vague you don’t know what the game is trying to tell you.

Graphics

With the art being what has to carry the story for When The Past Was Around, it’s not surprising how much effort was put into it. Brigitta Rena has a whimsical art style that reminds nostalgically of a fairytale or picture book, fitting the atmosphere of the game. For an added touch, there are occasional animations added into the mix to create a beautiful sense of life to the characters and their story. It helps that the game has a rather minimalistic look to it in terms of interface, keeping the focus on Rena’s gorgeous drawings. This might be the greatest asset of the game, though it’s hard to choose just one.

Sound

Interestingly enough music also plays a large role in this narrative. Both Eda and her lover play the violin and while music is what brings them together in the first place, it also continues to be a red thread throughout the story. The soundtrack of When The Past Was Around is stunning as a result, soaked in a heartbreaking sentiment that will surely stick with you easily. One certain tune keeps coming back in the gameplay – a song that Eda and her lover wrote together – and repeatedly using it in puzzles gives the game a more connected feel despite its abstract nature. There is no real voice acting, though occasionally the characters vocalize when they do things such as cough or sneeze.

Gameplay

When The Past Was Around is a point-and-click puzzle game. The game is very short and linear, simply dropping you in a scene where you need to solve simple puzzles to progress. Due to the disconnected approach of the story, things can change rather swiftly, but it’s always clear what to do. It usually falls in line with opening a door to move on or getting into a box or similar container to get the item inside. Classic point-and-click mechanics are involved, with you side-scrolling to see the entire room and clicking on whichever items seems useful. At the bottom of your screen is your inventory, where all your gathered items are. Dragging them up on the screen allows you to use these items with other objects and solve the game’s puzzles.

Should you get stuck somewhere, there is a handy dandy hint button that will highlight the next thing you need to click on to progress. There is no drawback to using these hints and it’s nice to see that they don’t spoil too much, only giving you a little nudge in the right direction. Overall the game only takes about two hours to beat, making it a very short narrative experience with sadly little replay value.

Conclusion

When The Past Was Around is the perfect example to prove people claiming video games can’t tell a story wrong. The narrative is relatable, yet leaves enough mystery to keep players enthralled. With its beautiful art and soundtrack to tie everything together, the easy gameplay is quickly forgiven. If you’re looking for something short and sweet that might elicit an unexpected emotion, this game is where to go.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (3 votes cast)
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When The Past Was Around - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
Jessica


Games are my escape and writing is my passion.

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