A while back, I reviewed the demo for a casual puzzle game called When the Past Was Around, which tells the story of Eda and a man known simply as the Owl. The story is told without any words and reveals the tragic twist right from the start, though it is the way in which the story is told that makes it both beautiful and heartbreaking even if we already know where it’s going.
The puzzles in this game were quite good, and they could be quite challenging without (usually) being overly confusing. You’ll definitely want a pencil and paper nearby as you jot down the clues you find as you search through Eda’s apartment, a quiet cafe, the beach, and a small handful of other locations that are all brought to life with a simple, but pleasant art style that’s easy on the eyes. While some puzzles simply require you to enter a code that you found in another location, there are plenty of others that really got me thinking. Though I will admit that chapter 2 had some really confusing puzzles, and I can barely explain how I solved them. Then again, I suppose the mere fact that I was able to solve them proves that there must have been enough logic behind them, after all? Or I just made a lucky guess.
While I largely enjoyed my experience with this game, I do want to mention a few annoyances in the hopes that explaining them will ease any frustration that others might face if they decide to play the game for themselves. First of all, there’s a puzzle in chapter 3 that involves constellations. This is the only time in the game that the other control stick is used, which led to no shortage of confusion. (I forgot which, but it’s the one that’s not used to move the cursor.) Also, I encountered a glitch at the end of chapter 1 that wouldn’t let me proceed when I was clicking on the bubbles containing musical notes. The only way to fix the issue was to restart the chapter, which was, thankfully, rather short.
When the Past Was Around is a beautiful game with lovely graphics and relaxing music to complete the ambience. And the emotional story paired with thought-provoking puzzles makes for a game that’s both engaging in narrative and gameplay. If you’re a fan of casual puzzle games and are interested in a bittersweet story of love and loss, then I’d recommend giving this game a try. When the Past Was Around can be completed in fewer than 2 hours and costs $8.49 on consoles and $7.99 on Steam, though I got it on sale for a couple of dollars, making it a great deal.
This post was originally published on Virtual Bastion on August 16, 2022.