There are experiences that are difficult to tell, but in this When the Past was Around review we will try to make sense of the emotions that Mojiken's title aroused in us.
Anyone who hangs out in the industry and who writes, whether for passion or for work, about video games knows: often, assigning a vote to a video game can be damned difficult. In fact, it is often also and above all difficult to start talking about a video game. And it does not happen exclusively with the biggest titles, with those that have the most media attention or on which everyone's eyes are practically focused. Often, it is also difficult to talk about video games that are on their own, on the sidelines, without attracting the prying eyes of those looking for Cyberpunk 2077 or The Last of Us Part II on duty. There are titles, for example, such as Gris, which narrates a common experience in a sublime way. There are titles like When the past was around, which tries to do the same in a different light.
Developed by Mojiken and published by Toge Productions, When the past was around is a point and click adventure recently released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Mac and PC (via Steam) that has been able to conquer us since the first presentation trailer . A simple title, extremely short and that does not aim to be talked about. A title that has the sole and simple purpose of telling a story, albeit in a cryptic and not concrete way. A title that he wants to leave as a message and that, to do so, does not use any type of word. To speak, in the title of Mojiken, will be the music. Welcome to the When the past was around review.
Eda is our protagonist: a sweet and pretty girl, violinist, dedicated to art and its expression in the form of music. Eda has always played, either because she was pushed by her parents, or because she was truly passionate. Over time, however, the fire of the violin went out and the young girl found herself without inspiration, without desire. That is, at least, until he met another young owl-headed violinist. We do not know if the guys from Mojiken represented him like this to make everything more dreamlike or, simply, to not give the boy a real semblance.
Their story is therefore born in this way and develops in unexpected ways, albeit a lot of telephone calls from the very first bars of the game. It is not difficult, in fact, to understand where the studio wants to go, but it still hurts to get to the end in the span of those two hours, at most, it will take you to do it. The story of Eda and Mr. Owl is not a happy story, but it is a life story. One like many others, as it could happen to any of us. In fact, we are too often busy filling our mouths with words such as "always" or "never", forgetting that life could take completely unexpected paths and directions.
As happened to Eda, who found herself, in a short period of time, having to recompose her own existence, putting aside everything that had been until then. The main theme of When the past was around is exactly this: learning to let go. Letting go of people, situations, lifestyles, emotions that seemed stainless over time, but which instead only know how to leave bittersweet memories in a corner of our memory. Memories that we can call back whenever we want, of course, but which inexorably are no longer part of our daily life.
When the past was around is, as we said at the beginning, a point and click graphic adventure lasting a maximum of a couple of hours, depending on your skill in solving puzzles. Unlike the classics of the genre, however, Eda will not move within the scenarios, but rather will wait for the player himself to solve the puzzle that will allow her to continue in the next environment.
As for the puzzles, we did not find particular difficulties in solving them. They will all be quite simple intuition and only in one case did we find ourselves having to turn around several times in the various rooms in search of the missing prompt. Nothing particularly complicated, however, and you will only have to sharpen your eyes or wits slightly, as the case may be. A small flaw is the accuracy of the hotspots with which to interact, which are often poorly defined. This especially in portable mode on Nintendo Switch, the console on which we played When the past was around for this review, and in which you can take advantage of the console's touchscreen to enter commands.
At the bottom of the screen you will find Eda's inventory, in which you will collect the objects necessary to complete the puzzles and which you can recall in the various rooms, perhaps even using them several times. Simple and intuitive, the puzzles gradually diminish a bit of brilliance in the final stages, turning out to be, in some cases, a little too repetitive and uninteresting.
What is striking about When the past was around is certainly the technical sector. Mojiken's title is completely hand-drawn from the first scene to the last, with a soft and warm color palette. The colors will be the protagonists of the title, marking every moment in the history of Eda and the Owl with ever-different shades based on the moment they are experiencing. Joy will be represented with bright and summery colors, suffering will make them sink into the darkest abyss of the sea. A real feast for the eyes, When the past was around, who knows how to paint both interiors and exteriors with unparalleled mastery, leaving us, at the end of the two hours, with the desire to see again those scenes perhaps painted in a book .
Another strong point and backbone of Mojiken's production is, of course, the soundtrack. Composed by maestro Masdito “ittou” Bachtiar, the soundtrack is the beating heart of When the past was around. Everything begins and ends with music. The pieces are almost entirely played on the violin, symbol of the love between Eda and the Owl, and they know how to accompany every scene, every moment, every joy and every pain with wisdom, sweetness and tact. It is difficult to explain in words the sensations and thrills that every single note has been able to leave us.
We end this When the past was around review with a piece of advice: throw away the idea that a short-lived title must necessarily be insufficient. It is not fair to rate an entertainment work by the mere number that appears in your save file. There are experiences, albeit brief, that know how to tell a story with skill and sweetness that any of us could find ourselves living. Because any of us are led to believe that the life we are living in that exact moment is not going to change. May happiness be eternal, may tranquility remain over the years. This is not the case. A simple moment can upset our lives with the force of an explosion, knocking us to the ground, unable to react. However, we must learn to react. We must learn to let go.7.5 A note, an emotion
- Artistically delightful
- Touching soundtrack
- Simple story, but impactful
- The puzzles are less and less brilliant
- Some flaw in the command input
- Maybe too cryptic