Hooray for games about time travel. There’s just something about titles that allow you to hop between timelines in the blink of an eye. YesterMorrow is a 2D platformer with action and puzzle elements that makes solid use of its time travel mechanics. But that isn’t even close to what makes the game special. The charming pixel visuals, entertaining platforming and exploration, and the tight controls come together to make a game that’s very much worth playing, even if the narrative trappings are generic and certain sections can be horribly frustrating.
YesterMorrow tells the story of Yui (who has a Japanese name for no reason), a young girl who is the daughter of the Forest Island’s timekeeper. Timekeepers are part of a generic order that work to hold back the game’s generic shadow enemies. Early in the game, Yui’s village is attacked by shadows and she runs off to go summon the Grandmaster (whose name better be Flash) to help fight the onslaught. But she falls into some ruins and all hell breaks loose. The plot jumps forward several years to when Yui is older and the world has fallen to shadow. It’s really basic stuff and there isn’t much to see here narratively. It’s competent, but very familiar.
The kicker is that there are shrines located all around the world of YesterMorrow that take Yui back to before the shadows attacked, allowing her to jump back and forth between the past and the present. It works just like it does in Ocarina of Time, except for the fact that shrine usage is much more common than going to the Temple of Time was in that game. Going to the past here is mostly used to find alternate routes, or to visit a village that no longer exists in order to gain information. Swapping back and forth is seamless but never really feels that important to the plot, even if it’s the lynchpin of the game’s biggest plot point, which is spoiled by the achievements and falls flat regardless.
More platformer than puzzler
YesterMorrow is best described as a precision platformer with some puzzles and enemies thrown in. For the duration of the game, you’ll mostly be navigating dangerous obstacle courses and dodging enemies while using Yui’s abilities to progress. Moving platforms, spikes, electric barriers, timed switches, they’re all there. Most of the game takes place across three islands: Forest, Desert, and Ice. They’re not directly connected, and you’ll need to use warp stones to move between them using a hub of sorts. The islands are fairly large, though, and there are heart containers, artifacts, map pieces, and collectibles to find. As you make your way through the game, Yui gains new abilities that make her more capable as well as allow her to utilize pathways and the like that she couldn’t before.
Her abilities are fairly standard, including a double jump, dash, stomp, dodge roll, and time-stop move. Much like the story, none of this feels especially unique. But what makes YesterMorrow worth playing is the excellent level design and platforming. The way the abilities are used in tandem is very satisfying and the game’s controls are up to the challenge. There are a few issues with them, such as how finicky the wall jump can be or how you need to carefully hold left or right when jumping from vines and chains. But playing the game feels fantastic, and the signposting always makes it easy to know where you’re going, even if you’re not sure what Yui is even doing at that point.
YesterMorrow technically has combat, but it’s not an action game and you won’t be hacking and slashing at anything. Yui’s dash can damage shadows, as can the Everlight bombs she throws. Enemies are either the animals that inhabit the islands, shadows, or animals possessed by shadows. Throwing a bomb or dashing at a shadow will kill it while doing either to a possessed animal will force the shadow out. You can’t hurt the animals themselves at all, although they can hurt you. They’re really more of an obstacle than anything else, and you’ll need to navigate around them or even use them as platforms on occasion.
Hard knock life
I found YesterMorrow to be a decently challenging experience. The vast majority of the time I thought the difficulty was just right. The game demands that you have its mechanics down but also gives you some leeway. When you die, you’re taken back to the last checkpoint, but you get to keep anything you’ve found and any shadows you’ve dispatched in that area stay dead. These save points are placed regularly and you won’t typically need to do the same long sections repeatedly when you hit a tough one. There are some sections that aren’t quite so gentle, however.
One late-game section in particular is rather obnoxious. Yui has to run away from rising darkness and go through a long gauntlet to get to the end. Dying means you start over from the beginning. This section isn’t so bad when you know what to do, but if you haven’t figured it out, it gets insanely frustrating. A couple of the bosses can also be maddening. The last boss was a pain, but mostly just because they’re able to use an attack that appears to be undodgeable at a few points during the fight. The fight itself is above board, but that one attack is cheap and unfair. There were a handful of times during YesterMorrow where I thought that the design of certain sections could use a bit more fine-tuning. But overall, I really enjoyed the game and found it to be well put together.
It’s also a decent length. My internet went out a few times while playing and ruined my Steam playtime counter, so I’m not actually sure how long the game is. I think it might have taken me around a dozen hours, which is a good chunk of time for a game of this sort. It has two endings, one of which requires you to have found all of the game’s artifacts. These are very easy to find, though. But if you did miss one or two, getting to them is a giant pain. To know where they are, you have to collect all of the map pickups on an island and then the game’s almost useless map system will tell you where the artifact is, but only down to one large section. That means that you’ll have to go through a linear but large chunk of one of the islands to find the thing, all the while looking everywhere. And you can’t warp to any of these places. It was a poor choice.
We all live in future world
YesterMorrow has a lot to offer people who like large, varied 2D platformers. It doesn’t do much on paper to differentiate itself from the pack, but I think the gameplay and level design are a cut above what most similar games offer. As such, I find this to be an easy game to recommend. It might not break any new ground, but it just works well. Apparently, the console versions of the game have some serious bugs that drag the experience down, but I saw nothing of the sort that could apply to the PC version. The game also has animals that you can pet as a main collectible. The internet loves that.