Game Review: When The Past Was Around

When the Past was Around, an indie game by Toge Productions

In the year 2020, many people lost a lot of things but at the same time, learnt to appreciate the things that were still here or left behind. Video games were always a form of art and entertainment for me personally, but this became even more salient last year as most of the world went into lockdown and we were all looking to escape the mundane ‘new normal’.

Enter, When The Past Was Around.

The game tells the tale of Edna, the female protagonist who seems to have lost her way until she meets The Owl (who really is an owl because I questioned this on stream and wondered whether he was a metaphor for something else, turns out not). Since it’s something to be experienced rather than be talked about, just like love and relationships and life in general, I’m just going to skip the plot details and talk about the features that made the game noteworthy for me.

The story is cleverly disguised as a point-and-click visual novel with puzzles that you work on in order to progress through the game. It plays out in the form of unlocking memories and unhiding secrets in the form of clues. Most of the puzzles are quite straightforward and work in a linear fashion though there were a couple that left me doing the ol’ trial-and-error approach.

There is no real-spoken dialogue and the game isn’t text-driven either. However, it does use a beautiful, unique art-style and music to convey certain life lessons, like heartbreak with a delicate sensibility. It is a short and bittersweet experience, but one that I would recommend. Obviously this won’t be a game for everyone, as some will lament the game’s length and replay value but oftentimes I just want to feel something when I play a story-based game and When The Past Was Around certainly delivers.

The prologue for the game is free to play on Steam here, so why not give it a whirl and see if it’s your cup of tea. Otherwise, you can take the plunge for the full game on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.

P.S. Thanks to Sarah from Toge Productions for the Steam key so I could write this review! :^)

— JP

Game Review: A Short Hike

I got this game as part of the itch.io bundle where the money from the sales of these games were going to the Black Lives Matter movement. If you’ve seen me on Twitter, you’ll know that I am a fan of putting resources for good causes. So onto my thoughts about A Short Hike.

Literally, the wind beneath my wings

So how short, is short? Well, that depends on what you make of it! Personally I’d already been recommended this game by at least 2 people, and I can’t say that I’ve been disappointed. And they both said different things to me. The first one said something along the lines of “if you like exploring, I think the game A Short Hike would suit you”, and so I added it to my wishlist. The second one actually recommended me the soundtrack as a song request on stream and I instantly fell in love with it. He claimed he finished the game in exactly 69 minutes.

So a game you can speedrun, as well as take your time with? Sweet.

I had also watched a couple of streams featuring this game because it seemed so charmingly cute. But at the same time, I didn’t want to see the adventure end so I saved myself from watching more than I should and stealing glimpses here and there. And without giving away too much, you play as Claire, a cute little bird who has to – you guessed it – take a hike. On the contrary though, if you’re into catching playthrough videos, I’ve posted my playthrough here. But is it really short? Like I said, it depends. And that is where the beauty in this game lies.

On why you should never skip breakfast

I really, really enjoyed this title – the written dialogue is witty and funny, the soundtrack is just so lovely it’ll warm and calm even the ragiest of hearts and the characters are all small, pixelated but wonderfully colored anthropomorphic animals. I’ll say this about most indie games (because it is mostly true), but this is one charming adventure that you don’t want to miss out on.

In a similar vein to Paul Coelho’s novella The Alchemist, for me though, the journey was more important than the final destination (and if you haven’t read it, I’d highly, highly recommend you do – it’s not really long at all and you might even gain a different perspective of things). So, why not take a break and go on a hike?

– JP

Game Review: Coffee Talk

It’s taken more than a few demos and blind playthroughs on stream for me to get to this point, but I am extremely honored to finally review this game that has come from a Toge Productions, an indie game studio based in sunny Indonesia. I was lucky enough to be gifted an early access key on release, but I took my time playing the game because I almost didn’t want it to end.

I know some people are going to think of VA-11 Hall-A, where you play as a bartender in a cyberpunk setting. An admission here is that I have never played VA-11 Hall-A, so you will get a raw, unadulterated perspective from me here. Nothing against comparing both of these games with each other, but I’m not really in the position to do so.

Freya’s actually one of the more ‘normal’ customers.

Anyway, onto the coffee and the talk! And that is precisely what this game is about. One of the few times a game title actually corresponds to what you actually do. You play as a self-named barista, serving hot beverages – coffee, tea and chocolate concoctions while listening to the problems of the people. Except, wait. These aren’t your average customers. In an alternate universe, set in this year, you are surrounded by other species like vampires, werewolves and orcs.

What really stands out from the game as a true juxtaposition are the extremely human interactions, dialogue and relatable characters who aren’t human. The dialogue is really well written, with words sculpted carefully by Fahmitsu. He manages to create a well-balanced blend of pop culture references, humor and interesting scenarios without sounding forced. Not an easy feat in the world of game writing, let alone writing itself.

The graphical style is pixel art, commonly seen as an ‘ugly’ art-form. Here, it fits in as beautiful and aesthetically charming. There is just something that feels so cozy and familiar about all of this, alongside the music. The soundtrack is simply wonderful, filled with chill beats and that lo-fi feel. It really sets the mood for all the interactions in-game. In fact, it’s so good I regularly listen to the playlist outside of the game which can be found on Spotify and Youtube all thanks to the composer, Andrew Jeremy.

4:20: Look ma, nobody cryin’ over spilt milk…

After playing through all the modes available – firstly the main story mode, with interludes of challenge and endless and I must say that story mode is where things shine. Of course I enjoyed creating my own ‘latte art’ without all the spills. What more could you want?

In short, this game feels like home. Uncomfortable, awkward dialogue and situations which ask for you to be creative, just like real life. This game is for those who like visual novels and story-driven games, point-and-click adventures and when you just want to curl up and relax on a rainy day or a late night, without grinding for levels.

So why not pull up a chair, grind some coffee beans instead and try the free demo? And if you like what you try, then I’m sure the full game is just your cup of tea.

Available on PC, Mac, Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.