YesterMorrow has such great style that it’s truly a shame it’s so mediocre. The game feels like a lesson in wasted potential; even though the platforming gameplay is based around the always interesting concept of time travel, it’s noticeably bland. While the puzzles aren’t especially bad or broken, they’re a bit underwhelming compared to some of the platformers we’ve had recently. With all this said, some parts of the game still shine through. Both the visuals and the soundtrack are excellent; the art perfectly blends a pixelated style with an amazing colour palette to stun you from start to finish, while the music sets the right tone for each section. With a bit more effort on the gameplay side, YesterMorrow could have really nailed it.
Story – Back to the Past
Have you ever wanted to go back in time to change your past? It’s a feeling I’m sure most of us have experienced at some point: making a mistake, and thinking about the consequences long after the event. This is essentially the basis for the story of Yui (the protagonist).
While the game’s story might not feature CG cutscenes or constant plot twists, it does tell a story that resonates with players. Yui feels responsible for the destruction of her village, despite the fact she was just a young girl when it happened. So, when she is granted the ability to travel between the past and present, she immediately tries to prevent disaster from striking. Yui’s grief and motivation are presented in a way that feels surprisingly human. And, although the story isn’t particularly lengthy, it succeeds in making the player empathise with its characters.
However, the story behind the world of YesterMorrow is less easy to piece together than the game’s main story. Every piece of lore comes in the form of a collectible; this means that to really understand what’s going on, players have to go out of their way to hunt down lore items. And, while this adds a bit more time to the game’s length, it would be nice to have some of the lore explained in other ways, such as interactions with NPCs. Nevertheless, the game’s overall narrative is one of its strong points, and it encouraged me to continue when the gameplay started to bore me.
Gameplay – Backtracking to the Future
The heart of YesterMorrow‘s gameplay is Yui’s ability to travel back and forward in time. Platforming obstacles and puzzles can be altered in each time; players must frequently travel to the past to get around things that bar the way forward. While this might be an interesting concept for gameplay, its overused to the point where I found myself constantly going back and forth through the same areas. The overall flow of gameplay would benefit from making time changes less frequent, rather than forcing players to switch.
Without time travel as a strong base for gameplay, the rest of the platforming is noticeably average. With an abundance of innovative platformers in recent years, YesterMorrow fails to break any new ground. Although a few abilities, such as creating a bomb to throw, might spice up the balance of combat and traversal, but most of the moves are generic. Double jumps and rolls are nothing new, while Yui’s ability to freeze time momentarily feels underused. Where the gameplay could really shine, it feels slightly off the pace.
Platforming sections certainly aren’t bad – they do test your skills more and more as the game goes on – but they don’t feel fresh. Even the “trials” that you can find in various temples don’t provide a new sort of challenge. Instead, players are faced with a slightly longer take on the platforming they’ve already mastered. And, even though there are some trickier sections later on, YesterMorrow isn’t hard in a way that defines your playthrough. This isn’t Celeste or Hollow Knight – it’s challenging without being a truly hard game. Without many new features or tricky challenges, the game fails to keep the players interest during platforming sections, making large parts of the game a slog.
Mythical monsters in a mad world
While the game’s platforming might be its biggest weak point, the boss battles you use your abilities in are the gameplay’s best moments. From a dragon to a giant cockroach to an armoured crow, each battle is a good change of pace. Unlike other sections, the game’s few boss battles force you to go on the offensive. By the final boss, you’ll have to use every skill in your arsenal, making it a solid final challenge to end the game. However, while the bosses are mostly fun and enjoyable, their attack patterns can become very repetitive. Especially in the first few fights, you’ll stop thinking for large sections as you keep repeating the same loop. By the end, though, the fight design really sharpens up, giving players something interesting to break up the mediocre platforming.
Moreover, the design of regular sections of the world is excellent. Unlike designated platforming sections, the world of YesterMorrow is fun to explore. NPCs have dialogue that fits well with the world – characters are lighthearted in the past, but much more brooding in the present. Also, each environment, be it the town or the fish market, has a little something to investigate. Sometimes, a closer look at a wall, or a trip to an attic, can reveal new secrets. The game might have benefitted from more of these sections; having a look around the world was more enjoyable than most of the platforming sections.
Graphics and Audio – Style and Substance
Without a doubt, the games visuals are the star of the show from start to finish. The art style isn’t pixelated, but it does give the game a retro effect. Each area and environment is full of colour, as well as small details that add to YesterMorrow‘s beauty. Yui makes ripples in the water as runs through it, and her hair moves as she jumps about. Character design is excellent – each NPC is intricately designed to fit in with their area, while still maintaining the chunky quality that every person has. And, most importantly, the game features some adorable animals to pet throughout the world. Meanwhile, the soundtrack does a solid job of setting the tone throughout the game. Soothing tracks play while you explore idyllic areas, while dramatic beats heighten the tension in boss fights. Each bit of music fits the world perfectly; the blend between perfect visuals and a strong soundtrack help make up for some of the game’s other shortcomings.
YesterMorrow was reviewed on PS4, with a review key provided by Stride PR.