The Pedestrian initially set sails as a Kickstarter campaign, seeking a modest $21,000 USD. This goal was surpassed with backers chipping in more than $30,000 USD. This was more than what was needed for the team at Skookum Arts to get, uh, on its feet. The project initially had a release date of June 2017 listed on its Kickstarter page. But as we’ve seen over the years in the video game industry, we know that those don’t equate to a full game release or even backers getting what they paid for. Fortunately for Skookum Arts, the development stars aligned and the team now has a finished product on its hands.
Over the past few years, I’ve managed to pick up quite a few puzzlers or games that housed puzzle-solving elements. I always find this surprising as I usually don’t stray too far from the action adventure or first-person shooter genres. However, it’s easy for me to gravitate towards something if its unique or visually compelling. The Pedestrian managed to do just that with a single gameplay trailer that showed off its protagonist navigating city streets by way of literal street signs. But, the end product is much, much more than that.
Go for it, connect four… or five… or six!
The visuals of The Pedestrian are instantly eye-catching. During each section, you will navigate street signs, building plaques, and a number of other digital display boards. In order to navigate these, you must bridge connections between doors and ladders within each panel. At any given time, rooms will also have objects in them that you must exit with in order to progress. The challenge here is that, in most cases, you can only connect a door or ladder once or risk it resetting all items and you in it.
Removing a connection will send your character back to the start of the puzzle, leaving you to scratch your head once more to figure out what you’re doing wrong. In some cases, the item reset is purposely done, placing trinkets and tools on the map back in their starting position so that you can use them sooner or after you have solved a portion to the overall level puzzle.
Fused and abused
Your environment isn’t isolated to just hanging signs, either. Skookum Arts has created a world and story that is told through fusing your character’s stick figure design and the real world around them. Your character will navigate clanking elevator shafts and drizzly rooftops as you seek your exit for the next location. It was impressive to see just how detailed each environment was as the camera panned to the next section. This is in contrast to the simple, two-tone street signs that act as a stage for the simple platforming and puzzle-solving that you’ll do throughout the game.
I’m honestly glad that the Kickstarter campaign included more than a few trailers showing off what the platformer-puzzler had in store. Looking back at the series of gameplay videos, it’s interesting to see how the mechanics and visuals evolved over time. After playing through the game in its entirety, the early designs almost seem rudimentary compared to the end product.
Quite honestly, there was very little that inhibited my overall experience with The Pedestrian, and what was there might have simply been a design choice to emphasize one of the overarching themes of the game. As you start out, there are a number of different mechanics to get comfortable with. Each one, though, involves you grabbing, moving, or connecting items. You’ll place small boxes on springy platforms or disconnect lasers in order for you to reach a portion to the map that was previously inaccessible. However, during my entire playthrough (which was about 8+ hours — probably embarrassing) I did find that in some cases I just wanted a hint. Even if it was limited to one a level section or something earned, I would have better enjoyed my experience with a little direction.
Again, this might have tied into the overall theme of The Pedestrian. As the player, you will learn and problem-solve in order to navigate through the city’s layers. At times I felt so small in this overwhelming bustling city of man-made structures, almost helpless. But by pushing forward and using the ol’ noggin’, you too can rise above the city walls. Something that, when I was in the middle of pushing buttons and figuring out contraptions, never really felt like it would arrive.
Outside of the hint system, there were a few small tweaks that could improve its quality of life. Things such as a complete reset of the puzzle would have helped out in numerous situations. This was the case towards the end when puzzles start to become denser and more frustrating. I stepped away from my computer a few times in order to clear my head from all connections, dotted lines, and bars that littered the screen.
Take a walk on the mild side
The Pedestrian did more than just embrace me with its puzzle system. The jazz tunes and extremely polished visuals provide an almost flawless experience from the first step to the last. Be warned, though, the journey isn’t easy. I had my fair share of dumbfounded moments, possibly even etched out a bald spot or two from how hard my fingers were scratching at my scalp. But making it through to the end and watching the credits roll caught me in a moment of reflection. As I watched, I realized how far I’d come and how many obstacles I was able to tackle on my own.
I still question if this was how things were supposed to play and if the design choices were intentional to feel that way. The end result, though, is a sense of mastery with a dash of uncertainty. Did the development team want this? Maybe. Was I supposed to feel this? Possibly. As cliche as it might sound, the experience was the heart of the journey in The Pedestrian — and the journey is anything but.