A brief taste of things to come, the prologue chapter of Mojiken Studio and Toge Productions’ When the Past Was Around tells a story with point-and-click gameplay instead of words. Does this artistic endeavor offer enough substance to keep players enthralled for the long haul, or is this one nothing but a bunch of fluff?

When the Past Was Around – Prologue

20-something Edda is lost. She is amiss as to where to go, but then meets a mysterious creature known as The Owl. From there, she looks deep within her own life to figure out exactly where she needs to go next.

This might seem vague and cryptic, because it is. The information above was gleaned from the Steam page – none of those names or history are provided in the title. Subtlety is an art, sure, but there are no books, logs, or anything else to give you an idea as to what is going on. As a result, the storytelling in When the Past Was Around is fairly poor.

Rather, the title has players doing a lot of clicking. From what we understand, there are three feathers that can be given to The Owl, each of which opens a door to a new area. Of course, the game isn’t going to just give you these feathers – rather, they lie hidden in each of the rooms players find themselves in.

This is where the gameplay comes in. Almost everything in the title can be clicked – drawers can be opened, fans can be turned on and off, and almost every plant can be smashed into an incredibly dirty mess. The puzzles range from the obvious to the convoluted – a key obviously opens a drawer, but getting a letter requires grinding up bread in a blender, opening a window, leaving the crumbs out for birds, and then getting said letter from a bird.

If this doesn’t make any sense, that’s because it doesn’t. Titles like Grim Fandango also rely on the obtuse, but this just feels like busywork. It almost feels pandering at times though – with everything being on the easy side, it can often feel like busywork than anything else. The story does not progress while players are clicking around, so those looking to learn more about Edda will be at a loss. If anything, there’s no context as to why they’re making a mess for the ages – it might be too deep for us, but we just weren’t able to appreciate it.

It’s not like players will have to worry about this in the long term, as the title is over in just a brief 15 minutes. This is a complimentary demo, but it barely has time to establish much of anything before everything is wrapped up with a neat little bow.

If there is one consolation to this title, it is that the art direction is well done. The character designs pop, and though the world is not the most detailed, it still establishes its world through its solid design.

When the Past Was Around – Prologue might be a demo of things to come, but its obtuse story and busywork gameplay fail to establish a foundation for the full game.

This review of When the Past Was Around – Prologue was done on the PC. The game was freely downloaded.
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