They say you only get one great love in life—the kind of love that accepts you for who you are, ugly flaws, excess baggage, unsightly blemishes and all. It’s the kind of love that doesn’t really complete you but matches your imperfections instead, and the kind of love that lets you share the last cookie in the jar by breaking it into two.
When The Past Was Around is a touching story about exactly that, complete with the cookie-breaking and the love, love, love. While the breathtaking, hand-drawn aesthetics of the game might make you think that it’s a feel-good celebration of love in its mundane, everyday, married-couple form, it’s actually the exact opposite—it dangles that idea in front of you briefly and then takes it away with a cruel death.
"While the breathtaking, hand-drawn aesthetics of the game might make you think that it’s a feel-good celebration of love in its mundane, everyday, married-couple form, it’s actually the exact opposite."
It’s not exactly a spoiler, but the game starts with Eda—a beautiful young woman that’s made for breezy sundresses and brown hair billowing in the wind—struggling to cope with the loss of her lover. All she really sees at first is his shadow trapped in a cage, but as you go through each chapter, you earn feathers that reveal both the lover’s features and the past. It’s basically a typical point-and-click game where you need to solve logic puzzles to progress through the story. You’ll be searching plant pots, opening cabinets, and unlocking safes to obtain key items, or even luring birds with bread crumbs to get them to drop something you need.
There are plenty of escape-room-esque elements in each chapter as well—for instance, you’ll discover codes in journals to turn dials, as well as count butterflies hovering about in the garden to know the right combination to certain things. While I did get stuck a few times, it’s not as frustrating as other point-and-click games out there—in fact, the low level of difficulty is likely deliberate to make sure that you focus more on the story rather than the actual gameplay, because yes, the story is a doozy.
I was not prepared for the emotional espionage this game sprung on me. I had an idea of the melancholy theme of When The Past Was Around, especially with a title like that, but the overall effect on me as I finished the game was just surreal. By the time the credits stopped scrolling and the final scene lingered on my screen, I swiveled around in my chair just as my husband walked into the room and raised an eyebrow at my puffy eyes.
I mean, nobody can blame me for succumbing to the invisible ninjas slicing onions in the room somewhere, because to add to the poignant theme of the whole thing, the soundtrack is a recurring melody that perfectly tells the story even without words or dialogue. The music is really the star of the show here. It’s a prevalent theme throughout the game since both protagonists are violinists, and it’s so dang memorable that it’s now on loop in my Spotify, because why the heck not.
If there’s one thing to complain about, it’s that hitting “Continue” when you’re in the Main Menu doesn’t really save your actual progress. Instead, you’ll get sent back to the start of the chapter you’re in, so you’ll need to repeat the chapter all over again. But then again, the levels are pretty easy and the experience so relaxing that you really won’t mind repeating the chapter from scratch.
When The Past Was Around | Final Thoughts
Proving that the smallest things make the biggest impact, When The Past Was Around only lasts about two hours on average, with five chapters that almost act as a tribute to the journey of love, loss, and letting go. It’s short and sweet for a reason, because there’s really no use prolonging something that’s already perfect in its brevity. The puzzles are actually pretty varied too, so you won’t feel like any single part of the game is dragging or anything. But while you can easily speed through the whole thing especially if you’re a seasoned point-and-click gamer, I encourage you to stop and smell the roses, so to speak—because with artwork and music as beautifully tragic as this, not appreciating it all would be such a darn shame.
TechRaptor reviewed When The Past Was Around on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
- Short But Meaningful Gameplay Experience
- Captivating Music And Visuals
- Memorable Story That Will Linger After The Credits Roll
- Low Difficulty Levels Might Be A Turn-Off For Some Players
- Doesn’t Save Your Progress Mid-Chapter