When the Past Was Around

Let’s start with the simple things first, When the Past Was Around is a very short game, and calling it a game may well be generous, but in saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience it provided and I would hate to sell it short of it’s mark. This game really took me by surprise, after seeing some artwork from the game on twitter I knew immediately it was something I wanted to play and it bumped itself to the top of my list.

So let’s talk mechanics, the progression of story in When the Past Was Around is delivered through point and click puzzle solving in what has become a solidifed and traditional approach throughout the genre with the benefit of some quality of life improvements such as a cursor that demonstrates what can and can’t be interacted with and what interaction an object is expecting. Solve the puzzle and the story moves on.

And what of the puzzles themselves? I found the puzzles rather entertaining, some were very straight forward and others required the use of a pen and paper to really solve. In a couple of situations I found myself attempting puzzles that the solution for hadn’t been presented in the game yet however and the telegraphing on that through the game wasn’t always clear.

But back to what really sold me on the game and more importantly what I enjoyed most about it, the art. Now I say art in this sense to encompass not just the visual direction taken, but also the audio and narrative directions. At it’s core, When the Past Was Around is an excellent example of nostalgic story telling.

The story features a core musical theme throughout, a composition devised through the characters relationship throughout the story and this theme comes through in various smaller parts depending on the mood of a scene. The use of musical motifs are what drive the players understanding of the story in place of dialogue, of which there was none. On visual art the game offers a classic style of rough hand drawn pencil sketch illustration akin to a childs storybook, emphasising the ideas of nostalgia and the movement of time as well as using visual symbology from musical composition to highlight the role of music as a core part of the narrative.

Without spoiling too much the story itself focusses on a core narrative of loss and handling the related grief and delivers this focus through the process of understanding the relationship the characters had before the loss occurred, covering the time before the relationship, through the relationship and ultimately after the relationship. It’s a story most of us will unfortunately find ourselves starring in throughout our lifetimes and one we can find a bittersweet comfort in being able to experience.

My overall play time was a little under two hours that I’m more than glad I was able to put aside for this. I can’t recommend it enough. Mojiken and Toge Productions should be proud of what they’ve accomplished.

You can find When the Past Was Around on Steam for PC or the Nintendo E-Shop for Switch.

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