[Review] When the Past Was Around – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Mojiken Studio
  • Publisher: Chorus Worldwide Games
  • Release Date: 15/12/2020
  • Price: £7.09 / $8.49
  • Review code provided by Chorus Worldwide Games

Introducing: When the Past Was Around Switch Review

There’s something wonderfully cathartic about a truly emotional game. The kind that reaches into your chest and pokes all those sensitive little bits inside. When the Past Was Around started as a PC game, but has it kept it’s unique melancholic charm during the porting process. Well, I’d be delighted to enlighten you!

Oh, My Poor Heart

I went into When the Past Was Around with no idea what was coming my way. I also found it’s the ideal way to play. So, I highly recommend tackling this game with minimal spoilers. The story follows Eda, a 20-something young woman experiencing the painful loss of direction that I’m sure many of us can relate to. She has lost her drive to follow her passion and has found herself lonely, lacking in both friends and someone to love. However, with the help of a wonderfully chivalrous Owl, she may finally get to discover all that makes life beautiful.

When the Past Was Around is a journey through her memories of these times, from learning to love, to how to let go, and all of the bittersweet moments in between. It isn’t a long story, but it struck a chord in me that had me silently crying as time passed. 

A Blast from the Past

The point-and-click mechanic is wonderfully simple and an absolute classic, making it the perfect fit for the tone of When the Past Was Around. Each of her memories comprise of small puzzles, and task you to find an object before using it the correct manner. The inventory bar sits along the bottom, making obtained items easy to drag to the appropriate location on the screen.

Both touchscreen and docked mode work extremely well, with touchscreen feeling slightly more fiddly – the slightest movement during a click would instead scroll the screen. When playing in docked mode, the left stick controls the cursor, while the right stick scrolls the scene. The A button is used to interact with items. If the control scheme was anymore complicated, it would detract from the relaxing and emotional journey. While the button inputs are incredibly basic, the gameplay choices are well-advised and truly enjoyable.

Mesmerizingly Melancholic

When the Past Was Around has an absolutely beautiful hand-drawn style that lends itself well to the evocative nature of the story. Each memory is wonderfully designed; from the bedroom to the patio, or the subdued colour palette used to highlight the emotional overtones that give the game its unique character.

I was enamoured by the sound design from the moment I began the game. I could feel myself being carried off with the subtle, delicate tunes. It was an ethereal sense of calm settling around me as I lost myself in the experience. Music can really make or break a game, and I can’t put into words just how lovely and heartrending it was in this particular game.

When the Past Was Around ran very smoothly in docked and handheld mode. As there’s very little necessity for reading, I found the Lite the most enjoyable way to play. I’d curl up on the sofa, brew in hand – is there a better way to play a low-energy game such as this?

Only as Hard as You Make It

Some point-and-click games can be really obscure or illogical, which makes solving them a royal pain. However, When the Past Was Around is only as hard as you make it. I never found locating the items difficult to do – and that’s despite none being uniquely drawn. I still thought they managed to draw my eye. If you do find yourself stuck, there’s a hint icon in the top-right corner highlighting any interactables in your current view.

Using items is logical; for example, if you get a knife, it’s sensible to assume that you can use it to cut open boxes or rope. There were very few times that I found myself stuck, and that was more often due to my lack of attention than a convoluted solution.

A Bittersweet Experience

When the Past Was Around is a beautiful, heart-wrenching experience that reaches into the dark pit of early adulthood and shines the light of growth with each memory. It’s truly an emotional journey that left silent tears on my cheeks, but also a sense of catharsis in my chest that made me smile. It’s a short but wonderful game. I can’t recommend When the Past Was Around enough. However, I do feel it’s subtlety may be lost with the younger demographic.

Pros

  • Beautiful art style
  • Evocative music
  • Emotional and well-told story

Cons

  • Would love it to be a little longer

Verdict
A perfect example of emotional and gentle story-telling, When the Past Was Around is an absolutely delightful way to spend an afternoon

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