Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Blowfish Studios
Developer: Bitmap Galaxy
Release Date: Nov. 5, 2020


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PC Review - 'YesterMorrow'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 5, 2021 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

YesterMorrow is a time-traveling puzzle platformer where you guide Yui across timelines as she traverses a broken future in search of a way to save her past.

The side-scrolling platformer is a staple of the 8- and 16-bit console eras and a popular genre in the PC space thanks to the abundance of indie developers. If you're a fan of using a gamepad on the PC or are comfortable with using the keyboard and mouse for the genre, there is a seemingly endless supply of titles. YesterMorrow from Slovakian developer Bitmap Galaxy is a recently released platformer that tries to combine elements of Celeste and Guacamelee into one package, but the results are a bit rough.

The village timekeeper protects the village and its people from the world's shadowy forces. You play the role of Yui, the timekeeper's daughter. Shadowy forces strike on the day of a great festival, and the shadowy forces end up controlling the world. You've been haunted by these memories, but you discover a way to possibly reverse the events via time travel. The skill will come in handy, since your mission includes rescuing your brother and mother.

This is the type of story that would be familiar with anyone who has played a platformer in the past few years. The game has quite a number of cut scenes that highlight the tale but fail to make the characters interesting enough that you care about it. There may be little things here and there, such as people not believing in your newfound skills or the fact that your actions are breaking the traditions of the world, but neither the premise nor characters compel you to finish the story.

Initially, the core platforming mechanics seem pretty good. Yui's walking speed is good enough, and her jump has a decent height to it. You can duck, and you can also do a forward roll. You have the ability to climb various ropes, vines, and spider threads, and you can shimmy on gates like you would in Super Mario World. While your maneuverability is fine, you have no real offensive abilities. You can jump on a few creatures to use them as pseudo platforms, but most of them will hurt you if you choose to interact with them in any way.

One of the key sins in a platformer title is mechanical uncertainty, and that occurs in YesterMorrow fairly often. For example, while jumping on a slope toward higher elevation gives you decent height, your jump feels shorter when compared to that same leap on flat land. It's more noticeable when jumping over mud pits, as you can easily clear the pits on flat land but will almost always land directly in them when on a slope. Rope-swinging becomes a key part to the platforming, but the game fails to graphically indicate whether you have the momentum to make the jump, since both short and long swings look the same. The colors lack enough shading variation to let you know what is and isn't a usable platform; some objects suddenly become viable places to stand once you stumble upon them.

Get through the rough platforming spots, and you'll discover that Yui is granted abilities over time to become a formidable platforming heroine. For example, your single leap is transformed into a double-jump when you're on a platform or climbing a rope. Dashing and stomping also become necessary tools later in the game, when unstable flooring appears and the platforming gaps become wider. You get light bombs fairly early on, which act as a cleansing mechanism for infected creatures and a way to banish the shadow creatures that are expelled from them; it's one of the few times when you can fight against an enemy rather than let other mechanisms do the job. Finally, you'll earn a time freeze that is probably your best ability in the game, despite only lasting for three seconds.

The main hook in YesterMorrow is the ability to travel through time. At various points in the game, you'll swap between time periods, where playing as young Yui means going through the world in more peaceful times and playing as teenage Yui means going through a shadow-infested land. The different time periods bring about other changes in the world, so clean water may only be present during better days, while the shadow days block off certain passageways. The different time periods also mean either a presence or loss of your newfound abilities, so younger Yui might be content to jump and climb ropes, but older Yui can do much more.

The problem you'll find with the time travel mechanic is that it isn't much of a mechanic at all. If you were expecting to initiate it at any moment, you'll be taken aback by the fact that it is limited to specific areas. The game's linearity also means that you won't do much backtracking when you shift through time, and you won't uncover any secrets when doing so. There's potential here to make it a worthwhile puzzle-solving tool, but with no actual puzzles present, its charm is sapped away.

There's not much else to the game beyond the main campaign. There are a few hidden passageways that contain heart pieces, but the checkpoint frequency means that backtracking through some tough platforming sections will only occur due to the game's periodically wonky platforming. There are a few challenge rooms that contain heart pieces and lore objects, but given the treatment of the story, there's not much of a desire to seek out those objects, especially when you discover that they have no impact on your character. There's also an overarching side-quest to pet every domestic animal in the game, and a few of them are tucked away in areas that require some strong platforming skills. Like the lore, petting every cat and dog does nothing for you in-game, but they're more enticing if you're an achievement hunter.

Presentation-wise, YesterMorrow is mostly good. The music does the heavy lifting for the overall sound, and the traditional guitar-backed rhythms perfectly fit each situation without leaning too heavily into Asian tunes. Speaking of which, the game looks very nice, with distinct designs and smooth character movement. As mentioned earlier, the color scheme makes it difficult to discern which platforms are usable, but that issue also bleeds over into some hazards. Some spiky vines blend in too well with the environment — to the point that you'll lose a heart because a small batch of thorns was hidden so well. The game also does its best to hide the ends of the dark slime barrier that aren't destroyed after an initial bomb blast.

YesterMorrow is fine. The platforming is good if you can forgive things like a lack of platforming weight and some difficulty in discerning usable platforms. The story is decent if you don't mind not connecting with the characters. The time traveling concept is interesting if you don't mind that it's wedged in only when necessary in a mostly linear adventure. There are better titles on the market, but you won't hate your time with YesterMorrow.

Score: 6.5/10

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