Do you like inspecting the bottom of objects? Do you enjoy looking at things with your eyes? Do you revel in the idea of browsing a person’s body and finding out information about their knees? If you answered yes, then here’s a game for you. Admittedly, much more happens within Yesterday Origins than just wandering and poking your nose into objects. There’s a remarkably good story underneath the pseudo point and click adventure concept and it involves immortality, antiques and the Devil. But you really can look down someone's body and internally discuss their hands or facial features.
The game opens as you take control of the son of a duke who can suddenly read and understand every language. This takes place in the time of the Spanish Inquisition (you’d never have expected that!) and so the town believes the boy to actually be the son of Satan. As crazy Middle Ages plotlines go, this is a preposterous corker. You’re understandably thrown in jail by the God-fearing populace, but you need to break out. A mysterious helper has conveniently dropped a body into your cell and by God, this body is the spitting image of our protagonist. Handy.
The left stick guides around the player character, allowing you to inspect the static scenes in a Telltale fashion and you’ll browse around looking for items to pick up and stash away for later use. Interacting with the environments opens up small vignettes which act as clues to progression. By holding ‘ZR’ you can select these to watch them again and holding ‘ZL’ allows you to browse your collected items. Handily, the right stick is used to highlight the interactive sections, so you’ll never miss an option or clue in a puzzle. Tremendously helpful as lining up the avatar with certain parts of the world can sometimes frustrate when they ‘look’ in the wrong area. Like so many point and click adventures that have come before it, Yesterday’s Origins’ solutions sometimes verge on too obscure. While there isn’t a hint system, you can try countless combinations until your heart is content, or until you find the correct outcome.
It’s not long before you’re breathing the somewhat sweet air of freedom and the title screen flashes up. The break out was merely the tutorial and the as the game begins proper, we’re thrown hundreds of years into the future. To reveal more about the plot wouldn’t be fair, because it’s genuinely interesting in places, though let down quite often by disastrous voice acting. The characters don’t feel so much like they’re interacting and considering the main two characters are a couple, you’d have hoped for some chemistry.
John is immortal, whenever he dies he returns to life just as he was but loses his memory. Pauline, his girlfriend, is also immortal, but she keeps her memories upon death. Sounds convoluted and it is, really, but it verges on the kind of ridiculousness that’s entertaining. It’s clear the narrative isn’t taking itself seriously as noted in certain scenes or internal musings on items. Just watch how Pauline deals with the wrinkles around her eyes. There’s plenty of tongue in cheek dialogue that accompanies experimenting with combinations of items or inspecting certain viewpoints as you rotate a mug or brush or coin in the air.
Interestingly, in scenes which feature both John and Pauline you can actually switch between the two characters, however, it doesn’t really lend the game much in the way of a narrative shift. It simply allows for more dialogue options or background information. Thankfully, there are more than these two immortal beings to control and each person opens up new aspects of the story, while bringing some interesting aspects to play.
Yesterday’s Origins isn’t a particularly long game, especially if you stumble upon or crack the solutions swiftly, but it does deliver a lot of interesting ideas entwined within the plot. Switch is an ideal home for games such as this, because in your hands, it feels as if interacting with a book. And it’s a rather pretty book, too. The visuals have a rather unique style that bridges a gap between realism and a comic book. The scenery is often attractive and the animation of the cast is lovely. Backing all of this up is a soundtrack that moves through many emotions, which is a lovely contrast to that voice acting, though many of the music pieces are too short and often repeat.
There are some design choices that leave little to the imagination, particularly as Pauline gets in and out of the shower or as our early captor describes his torture techniques, but then this isn’t really a game for kids. Yesterday’s Origins has more in common with the likes of Dan Brown than classics such as Broken Sword. It’s silly, often funny and at times, exciting.
Yesterday’s Origins doesn’t attempt to change the formula of the point and click adventure and that’s okay. The story is delightfully bonkers and it looks pretty, but if you dig deep there’s some repetition, some odd stylistic choices and you might not recall it in years to come, but it’s nice to see such a game on Nintendo Switch.