Towards the end of 2020 computer and console game designers seemed to bring two ideas to the forefront of electronic gaming. They either went retro and produced a bundle of platform and adventure games using old-style, pixellated graphics or they really pulled as much creativity from their brain cells as was (in)humanly possible and came up with unique puzzle games that truly set the player's brain and imagination into overdrive, such as DARQ and this excellent story-led teaser WHEN the PAST was AROUND
When the Past was Around is a point-and-click narrative puzzle game about love, moving on, letting go, and the joy and pain of everything in between. When it comes to the price of playing, it compares extremely favourably with just about every new game at just $8.49c.
It is available on PC Steam, PS4, XBox ONE and Nintendo Switch
The following are words from the publishers:
This is the story of a woman facing the past and moving forward into the future.
From Brigitta Rena, the creator of A Raven Monologue and She & The Light Bearer.
When the Past was Around is an adventure point-and-click puzzle game about love, moving on, letting go, and the joy and pain of everything in between.
This is the story of Eda, a girl in her early 20s.
Like anyone in her age, she’s lost.
She lost her way in the journey to achieve her dreams.
She lost her way in the journey to find love.
That until she met The Owl.
The man that would help her burn her passion,
the man that would help her find the spark in a relationship,
and also the man that would teach her about heartbreak.
The game tells a bittersweet tale between a girl and her lover in a surreal world consisting of disjointed rooms from memories and time. With each gathered clue, solved puzzles, and unlocked door, the girl will find her way, unraveling the secrets between her and her lover, the secrets which she used to know.
A picture speaks a thousand words.
Experience the game’s story not through words nor dialogues but beautifully hand-drawn art created by famous Indonesian artist, Brigitta Rena.
A short, sweet and whimsical journey.
Explore a bittersweet tale between a girl and her lover in a surreal world consisting of disjointed rooms of memories and time.
Personal and ubiquitous.
A game about overcoming the past and finding the self.
Solve brain-teasing puzzles.
Various intriguing puzzles to solve and stories to uncover.
Let the music guide you.
Atmospheric violin music will accompany you from the peaceful days to the angstiest moments.
When The Past Was Around is a short silent narrative experience that can be finished in less than 2 hours. Even though it is a short game, we’ve put all our hearts into delivering a deep and meaningful experience for you. We hope that the brief moment you spend with Eda and Owl would be priceless and unforgettable.
The Lightbulb in the top right of the screen can be clicked on - click and hold - to divulge areas in the frame that can be investigated. An 'eye' means you can look at something, a moving hand means you can grab it and place it in your inventory or manipulate it (open a drawer, door etc).
Items in the inventory (the space below the frame) can be clicked on, held and dragged onto the screen. The place where the item is required begins flashing once you move it close enough for it to be used.
The game begins with Eda finding a shaded being in a birdcage. As the game continues the figure forms inito humanoid shape and the shading gives way slowly to colour and the head shapes to that of an Owl. You (the player) have to follow the Owl and learn to live and love again as you search and discover various rooms and devices.
You should write down every clue that you find just for ease of having to go back and forth between the clue and where it is needed. There are a few Red Herrings, clues that you think are clues but maybe are just parts of Eda's story.
Once you enter through a door there is no going back. You have to find and solve the puzzle/s in that room before you can move on.
Some of the puzzles are Logical or at least have logical clues to them. Example being a keyring with something on it that relates to where the key will fit. Obviously you have to find the Keyhole and the Key separately and it is these hiding places that are illogical.
For instance you can clearly see a crowbar inside the glass door of the Grandfather Clock. You find a large wooden crate a little further on. Using the Crowbar versus Crate is a logical way of opening the crate. However, to get the crowbar you have to open the Clock's glass door (no you cannot break it - you'd probably need a crowbar to do so - ironic) so you have to solve the puzzle of opening the door before you can get the crowbar. The way to do this is fairly easy, but not logical.
Then there is the music, the musical notes, Eda on TV playing the violin etc. But to see her there you have to turn on the TV. This again is partially illogical as you have to locate the on/off button and refix it to the TV. Finding a Remote Control would have been more appropriate and logical and would have done the same job.
Listen to the music carefully, it is influential on your choices of action.
Playable, apparently, within a couple of hours, When the Past was Around is a wondrous pursuit of lost innocence through the eyes and actions of a waif of a young girl.
It is like many of this game genre trial and error of what will work or not. So often you can see what you have to do but know full well that you need to do something or find something that will trigger the next part of the tale.
I have spent over 2 hours on it and have managed to get myself stuck in one place. I have found a Walkthrough online but have so far refused to use it because I am stubborn and don't want to be beaten by something that is directly in front of me, logical or not. Every screen has at least three actionable areas. Finding them is a case of moving the cursor until the spot/item/object/fault etc is highlighted. Sometimes you may have stumbled across the clue before you find the puzzle, then you are lucky, but generally, at least for me, I seem to locate the puzzles and then look for the clues.
The screens for When the Past was Around have a dated look about them, like photographs from Ada's past, not like pixellated programming. For players of a certain age (like me) it is as if I am staring back to rooms that were similar when I was a child, it's eerie.
When the Past was Around is intriguing in its beauty, its premise and its storyline. This is a game to savour.