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When the Past was Around Review

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Fast Facts

When the Past was Around

Developer: Mojiken
Publisher: Chorus Worldwide
Genre: Point and Click Adventure, Puzzle
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: N/A
Release Date: N/A
Price: N/A

A code was provided for review purposes.

When the Past was Around conveys a whirlwind of emotions through its combination of award-winning violin music and hand-drawn art. It’s a compelling journey into the thoughts of Eda, the main character, as she processes a devastating personal loss. There’s no doubt that I found this game to be a delight, but is it the game for you? Let’s take a look at what it has to offer.

No Words Can Tell This Story

When the Past was Around Xbox One Review
Take this musical and passionate journey with Eda.

When the Past was Around is a game almost driven by its soundtrack. There is no dialogue but the music is employed in a clever fashion that helps to deliver the story. The beautiful, hand-drawn images (by the Indonesian artist, Brigitta Rena) fuse with the melodies to lead you through a poignant tale littered with clever puzzles.

Music seeps into everything in When the Past was Around. When you hover over the main menu options, press pause or scroll through the chapter menu, you hear snippets of melody. The noises have a musical quality when you interact with items within the levels. Granted, some of the objects are musical or percussion instruments and you would expect this. However, even more mundane items sound like they could form part of an orchestra given half a chance. I found it quite cathartic to interact with items simply to find out what noise they would make when I did, and then to see if I could make a tune or a rhythm out of the available sounds.

When the Past was Around Xbox One Review
Music is an integral part of the game.

Even some of the puzzles have a musical theme. I think that the omniscience of music in When the Past was Around serves to highlight the importance of its presence in Eda’s life. Perhaps it also gives us a little window into how she sees the world, full of notes and beats. Although the juxtaposition of this simple pleasure against Eda’s sorrow is bittersweet: it’s a game that constantly transports you from one end to the other of the emotional spectrum.

Point and Click Without a Mouse?

The control system for this point and click adventure gets a thumbs up from me. Overall, I think it works really well with an Xbox One control pad. You can scroll left and right on the screen to move quickly around rooms/areas and initiate immediate interactions with items by pressing one button. If you start to get stuck, you can identify areas of interest with the tap of another button to get back on track. I particularly liked how easy it was to move between different areas and to interact with objects in your inventory and in the main level.

When the Past was Around Xbox One Review
Pressing ‘Y’ will show you areas of interest.

There was only one thing that annoyed me about the controls. About halfway through the game a puzzle involved using a control that hadn’t been used up to that point (and wasn’t used again). I found this frustrating because I could see what I needed to engage with, but none of the controls seemed to interact with the it. In my opinion, the difficulty in a puzzle should be in solving it, not in trying to work out what the controls are. However, this is my only gripe with the game and on balance it was a minor issue.

A Rich Offering

Music is such a massive element in When the Past was Around. There’s a beautiful little refrain repeated in a variety of the tunes but it’s not a chore to hear it over and over. I love the flow between upbeat and melancholy melodies, but perhaps best of all is the haunting and emotive violin. For me it’s always a good sign when I go looking for the soundtrack after playing a game. And of course, this is exactly what I did after finishing When the Past was Around. I’ve listened to it every day since, in fact I’m listening to it while writing this review. Masdito Bachtiar (the artist who created the soundtrack) did a fine job.

When the Past was Around Xbox One Review
You can ‘play’ the instruments.

Seconds, Anyone?

I often feel like achievements are an add-on to a game but I really enjoyed hunting them down in When the Past was Around. They didn’t feel disconnected from the story and it was a pleasure to complete chapters again where I had missed them. In my opinion it’s a game that has replayability, even without searching for achievements. I played through each chapter a second time and I think I would have done regardless, once just didn’t feel quite enough. Since I already knew how to complete the puzzles, I found myself even more moved by (and immersed in) the touching story the second time around.

An Emotive Package

I wouldn’t like to tell anyone how they should feel about a game but I can tell you that by the end of When the Past was Around, I had a huge lump in my throat – and I’m not someone who tears up at the drop of a hat. If you’re prone to cry easily at films and games, I’d advise having a box of tissues on standby.

When the Past was Around Xbox One Review
Eda’s world.

I think that When the Past was Around has a lot to offer to a range of tastes. It’s a wonderful game for people who have a love of music or a musical background. There’s appeal for gamers who enjoy a mixture of puzzle difficulties, from straightforward to the occasionally tricky and everything in between. It’s also a game for those who value a story that captures what it means to be human. And finally, for those who appreciate the power of storytelling through combined art forms. If you’re looking for something to enchant your senses, to fill your heart and test your mind, keep an eye out for the release of When the Past was Around on the Xbox One.

Rapid Reviews Rating

When the Past was Around will be available to buy from the Microsoft Store once it is released for Xbox.

You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.

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