The 2D platformer genre has received a surprising amount of attention this generation. Excellent titles like Sonic Mania, Celeste, and the Ori series are fantastic examples of what this genre had to offer to gamers this generation. With that, Bitmap Galaxy and Blowfish Studios have submitted their own entry into the fray with have submitted their own entry into the fray with YesterMorrow. How does their effort stand up to the stalwarts of the genre? Read on to find out.
Game Reviewed: YesterMorrow
Developer: Bitmap Galaxy
Publisher: Blowfish Studios
Release Date: November 5, 2020
Price: $19.99 US
Platform Tested: Xbox One X (Also available on PS4, Switch, and PC via Steam and GOG)
Disclosure: The publisher provided the author with a code for the game for the purpose of this review. The information contained within this review is accurate as of the published date.
Many games this generation have been able to beautifully convey a 2D pixel art style. Games like Sonic Mania and Dead Cells have used this style to fantastic effect. YesterMorrow also employs a pixelated 2D style to excellent effect.
The sprites are a highlight of the visuals here. They are detailed and accurately convey the personality of Yui, creatures, and other characters, and they animate smoothly. The different biomes in the game are also quite detailed. I’m always impressed with how developers are able to take 2D sprite-based visuals—a rendering technique that is simple compared to modern methods—and use them to create beautiful looking games. YesterMorrow is no exception.
The aspect of the game’s visuals that really seals the deal, though, is the lighting. I cannot overstate just how good the lighting looks in this game. From light sources like candles, to conveying time of day changes, Bitmap Galaxy absolutely nailed the lighting model in YesterMorrow.
I also love the visual style employed by Bitmap Galaxy for the visuals in YesterMorrow. The game has a strong Asian influence with regard to its style, which differentiates it from the other 2D platformers I have played this generation. Houses, temples, and scenery have a decidedly Asian flair, which makes the game visually interesting compared to its peers.
As good as the game looks, the visuals in YesterMorrow are not perfect. While detailed, the environments and biomes aren’t as detailed as those found in other 2D pixel games such as Dead Cells. Additionally, at some points during the game it seems like the larger sprites look “pasted” on to their surroundings as opposed to being a part of their environment. It’s an odd look that sadly cheapens the experience a bit.
I am happy to report that the game moves at a smooth clip on my Xbox One X without dropped frames. This improves gameplay and control. I’m confident that this assessment would apply to the PS4 and PC versions of the game as well. I am not sure if this gameplay smoothness is maintained on the less-powerful Switch, so I’ll have to get around to testing that version at some point.
As with the visuals, the audio in YesterMorrow has a strong Asian influence. The soundtrack to the game is a standout, with the different tracks perfectly representing each environment. I also love how the soundtrack shifts to reflect the different time periods that Yui can travel to. In the past, before the disaster, the soundtrack is calm and soothing. In the post-disaster future, the music becomes lower-key and somber in its tones. The music really is one of the strongest aspects of YesterMorrow. The various sound effects are pretty standard fare for a 2D platformer, however.
Given the title of the game, one could reasonably assume that the passage of time is integral to the experience of YesterMorrow. You would be correct in this assessment. YesterMorrow tells the story of a girl named Yui who lives in a forest village with her brother and the rest of her community. Things seem peaceful and serene. However, as is usually the case in video games, things unravel pretty quickly.
Yui’s village is attacked by the Shadows, entities that are able to possess and corrupt anything that they come into contact with. The Shadows steal the Sun and send the world into ruin and despair. Yui, however, is uniquely equipped to fight back against the darkness due to her ability to harness Everlight.
Furthermore, Yui has the unique ability to jump in between eras by accessing certain monuments in the game world. A child Yui experiences the world prior to the Shadows’ arrival, whereas a slightly older Yui interacts with the world post-calamity. The game weaves the story between these two eras, and is quite well done. The plot structure in YesterMorrow is not to dissimilar from the Ori games in that story beats are presented to the player as they progress throughout the game’s interconnected world. It is an intriguing tale that I feel most gamers will enjoy. I do wish that the dialogue wasn’t so generic, however.
The time travel mechanics referenced in the Story section above are integral to the gameplay experience of YesterMorrow. Jumping in between eras causes the game world and levels to shift and change drastically. This keeps the game feeling fresh, as new platforming challenges await with each warp.
As I alluded to in the previous section, YesterMorrow has a lot in common with the Ori games. This includes the game’s puzzle-based platforming, which is generally excellent. Clever environmental puzzles break up the challenging platforming. At times, the game weaves these to elements together incredibly well. I didn’t find the platforming in YesterMorrow to be as difficult as Ori, but it is definitely challenging and you will definitely die your fair share of times throughout Yui’s adventure.
Deaths rarely, if ever, feel cheap, though, because the game’s controls are mostly very well done. Yui controls with a precise lightness and agility. There is no odd floaty or unresponsive sensation to the controls, so while the platforming ahead may be challenging, you always feel like you are in complete control of Yui. The only exception to this would be the swimming controls, which are unnecessarily clunky and awkward. The simple act of getting out of the water is frustrating.
Initially, Yui has no real way to defend herself against the corrupted creatures and enemies that she encounters during her journey. However, as she progresses she will unlock abilities such as bombs that give her the ability to fight back to an extent. One issue that I have is that I wish the feedback to the player is not prominent when Yui is injured.
The interconnected world of YesterMorrow is a highlight. As opposed to distinct levels, the different regions of the game’s biomes seamlessly flow into one another. Again, this is similar to a game like Ori and the Blind Forest. These biomes have excellent variety and are full of secret areas to discover, netting helpful rewards like heart containers and map stones.
If it seems like I keep bringing up the Ori games, it is because YesterMorrow does have a lot in common with those titles. This is not a bad thing at all. This style of game works well for YesterMorrow, and developer Bitmap Galaxy was able to put its own unique spin on this formula.
Fun Factor and Accessibility
The gameplay and level design of YesterMorrow is quite engaging. Yui’s unique abilities and the game’s time travel mechanics fit in well with the story and feed back into the level design. These make YesterMorrow an enjoyable game to play through. The difficulty of the game feels well-balanced and fair. However, there are no adjustable difficulty options in the game. Players that do not have the precision and reaction time necessary may end up feeling left out as a result. The game does make up for this somewhat by placing health-refilling save points generously throughout the world.
YesterMorrow is a solid entry into the platformer genre. It features a unique concept, challenging gameplay, beautiful pixel-based visuals, and an excellent soundtrack. While it is derivative of Ori in many ways, its unique setting and mechanics help it to stand out from the crowd. I highly recommend YesterMorrow to any fan of 2D platformers.