- Genre: Adventure, Casual, Indie
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, XB1, PC
- Developer | Publisher: Mojiken Studio | Toge Productions
- Age Rating: PEGI 3 | ESRB E (Everyone)
- Price: UK £5.79 | US $7.99
- Release Date: 22/09/2020
Many thanks to Toge Productions for the review code!
I get easily emotional, so I tend to avoid games that I know are going to make me cry. However, When the Past Was Around has such a deep and soul-touching premise that I just had to give it a go. Warning – emotional times inbound!
When the Past Was Around follows Eda through a meandering series of memories, starting with losing her passion in her early twenties. She soon meets a wonderful man, Owl, whose kindness and love can help her find herself again. I don’t want to delve any further, as spoiler-free is definitely the best way to experience this beautiful tale. I do recommend keeping the tissues handy though – Eda’s journey is both heart-warming and heart-breaking, and those tears tend to sneak up on you.
Ah, point-and-click. Such a classic mechanic, and yet, so well implemented. As each memory consists of a series of mini puzzles, the controls work perfectly to keep overthought to a minimum and allow you to simply enjoy the experience without arguing with the mechanics. Once collected, items sit in an inventory bar at the bottom of the screen, and using them is as simple as dragging them on to the appropriate object.
Graphics, Sound, and Performance
When the Past Was Around has an absolutely beautiful hand-drawn style that lends itself well to the evocative nature of the story. Every scene is beautifully designed, with a subdued colour scheme that serves to highlight the emotional nature of the game. The transition between pleasant memory and sad memory creates a huge contrast in a scene, and makes me excited to see more of Brigitta Rena’s work.
The sound design is, in a word, mesmerising. With the exception of the menu button, the volume of which can thankfully be turned down, every sound is so soft and delicate that it simply carries you along. There’s true emotion laden in every note of the soundtrack, and trust me when I say you’ll want headphones on for it.
I’ve come across my fair share of illogical and infuriatingly obscure point-and-click adventures, but am glad to say that When the Past Was Around is relaxingly simple. As long as you’re paying attention and using some small measure of logic, nothing should stump you for too long – for example, finding a knife in a room full of taped boxes would generally suggest using said knife to open the boxes up. There are situations where an item will be found but not used until later, or even only found on revisiting the previous location, but these make sense as you encounter them.
Unlike in some point-and-click games, interactable items aren’t drawn differently. They appear exactly the same as everything else in the environment, but still managed to catch my attention easily. If you’re really struggling, there is a hint button that highlights interactables, but I didn’t find it necessary.
When the Past Was Around is a showstopper in it’s genre. Balancing joy and sorrow, overlaid with the haze of nostalgia and the clarity of growth, it’s a journey told in subtlety and delicacy. Granted, it’s probably too subtle to appeal to younger players, but it feels more aimed at young adults through to older generations. I was left light-hearted but teary by the end of the short experience, and felt a whole new appreciation for the wonderful things in my own life. You never know when you’ll lose something, after all, and should make the most of it while you can.
The perfect way to fill an afternoon, I’d recommend this soft and heart-stroking experience to anyone and everyone.