When The Past Was Around takes us through a relationship, in love and in destruction, exploring it through wordless puzzles and beautiful places.
Eda finds her spark in life through her lover, The Owl. Together, they burn bright, taking great joy from each other’s company and from the fiery joy that fills their existences. Fire can burn, though, and while their passion ignites things within them, we also watch as it slowly snuffs out, their happiness dulling as things fall apart. It’s a sorrowful tale, but when told with such striking music and backgrounds, it’s difficult not to want to follow it to its conclusion just to take it all in.
This story gets told in environmental puzzles, where you will interact with items and objects in a room to see how they work with one another. The puzzles were intuitive enough to feel natural, but not so easy that they trivialized play, creating a perfect balance for an adventure game. Solving these puzzles has different effects on the environment, though, leaving the places very different than when you first entered them. It’s in seeing these actions, the puzzling items, and the aftermath of your work that you find out the story of Eda and The Owl.
Working through these living memories takes places of beauty and joy and leaves them in shambles, capturing the destructive effect this relationship seems to be having on those within it. The game is filled with these moments where every thing you do and work with all help weave the tale, having you think on what it all means and how it reflects the state of their connection. It’s a lovely experience to feel these mysterious bits of story and these items come together to hint at the narrative, giving you space to find your own personal meanings within it while also discovering the story.
When The Past Was Around is an impressive feat of storytelling (something I keep going on about), saying so much without speaking a word. Its work in relationships – how they can raise us up or bring us crashing down – made for some deeply emotional moments for me, and likely will for many others who’ve shared their lives with someone else. It’s a captivating experience that seamlessly weaves its story while mingling with the player’s own memories, making for a touching connection as you work through the game’s meanings for yourself, and what it all means for you. It’s a fantastic story – a favorite for 2020.
When The Past Was Around is available now on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and Steam.