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! :^)