(I got grabbed by the title. A beautiful game, at times painful. Past Present - Details (ifdb.org))
Entropy of a marriage
A man enters his house. His ex-house, to be more precise. One more tour through the once-familiar, now-empty rooms. Regrets come alive, memories ask for attention.
A throughway opens to a past where cracks could perhaps still be mended, before it all irrevocably broke apart.
“Funny that this is called the “living room,” as it’s now so bereft.”
The writing in Past Present emphasizes the lonesomeness of the rooms and contrasts it with the vividness of the memories of times past. Painful memories.
The game is written in the usual second person perspective, but it feels very close to the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings. A lot of sadness and anger and self-pity comes through. Fortunately, there are also flashes of dark humour to lighten the mood…
Although Past Present has a very small map, I loved the use of space. The feeling of spatial exploration from “normal” text-adventures is replaced by an exploration of the mind and memories of the protagonist. Even with only six rooms, there is much to discover in the responses to objects and details in those rooms.
The central mechanic of the game, moving from present to past and back to make things better, suits the exploration of memories very well. The player gets to unravel the protagonist’s backstory and think about what would be a better outcome.
The medium of IF is used brilliantly in this game for the exploration of memories. However, that other staple of IF, puzzles, is hard to get balanced in a deeply psychological/emotional game like Past Present.
Most of the puzzles do try to flow with the story, but where the game shines in the free exploration of the memories, they often seem like obstacles. Because text-games are supposed to have puzzles…
While the ending is totally appropriate and keeping in tone with the rest of the story, I wish it were drawn out in a gradual revelation rather than the abrupt cut-off it is.
Treat this game gently, read every description carefully and let the words go to your heart.
This is a deeply touching piece, inviting the player to think deeper about what is, what could have been, and what one’s perception is of what should have been.