Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Suggested Gaming: ...But That Was [Yesterday]

...But That Was [Yesterday]
by OneMrBean is a browser game platformer, simple in gameplay but narratively complex, created for's Casual Gameplay Design Competition. It essentially follows the same set-in-stone Mario platforming conventions, always move right. But there is an obstacle in the way of the player which he must learn to avoid in order to travel forward. This post is going to be spoiler heavy, so if you haven't played the game (which seems likely as it was just released yesterday) GO PLAY IT HERE NOW BEFORE CONTINUING. It's a short game (won't take ten minutes).

The main character of ...But That Was [Yesterday] is a man caught up in his past and the losses he has suffered. It opens with one option, to run head first into a dark, sputtering wall which brings back swarms of memories from the character's past. The wall instructs the player to run into it repeatedly and it immediately becomes clear that this is the only time you will want to avoid instruction. A dog approaches from behind and tells the player to look away from the wall. The wall will shrink away, allowing the player to continue.

This is how you will learn to play the game. There are three major sections of the game, each one divided by an sparse, grey level. After learning how to avoid the wall with the help of the dog the dividing level is a straight run. Then the player will meet a friend who teaches him how to jump. They will travel across rooftops in a simple Canabalt style level. After losing his friend the player returns to the dividing level, this time with gaps meant to jump over. Then the player learns to swing with a lover. Once losing her, the player is taken back to the dividing level, but now there are swings.

Instead of a pointless instruction screen that pops up to teach a player how to do a new trick, the game provides one with instructors. Once each one gives you some new information, helps build the character through new mechanics, the loss of these instructors becomes slightly more painful to the player. Many video games try to convince the player to connect with NPCs via dialog or just telling them "this character was important to you!" ...But That Was [Yesterday] actually attempts to give the player a reason to become attached to NPCs. They're helpful.

During the final dividing level of the game, the player's actions are mirrored by a shadow of the person who instructed him. When turning your back on the wall, the dog appears, when jumping the friend appears, and when swinging the lover appears. Through the remnants of these people being part of the character, and positive ones, he becomes able to hold to and appreciate the past without being hindered by the sad memories of loss.

That's the big thing I really wanted to mention, but there's a lot of other great elements to the game. The music is splendid, with wistful acoustic guitar melodies and upbeat yet soft electronic tracks. The art work in the game is lovely, with painted backgrounds and characters that are remarkably expressive for faceless, monochromatic bodies. And the gameplay becomes increasingly fun as the player learns new abilities. The swings, especially, add a lot to the short gameplay.

You can check out other games by OneMrBean at his website HERE.

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