When it comes to visual novels and point-and-click games, I tend to avoid them. It’s not that I hate those types of games; I just stopped vibing with them over the decades of gaming. However, that all ended when I was asked to check out the demo for the upcoming game, Until Then. I wasn’t sure what to think. Especially given that this is a combination of the two games I didn’t play. Thankfully, I tried the demo, and now I’m hooked.
Game Name: Until Then
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5
Developer(s): Polychroma Games
Publisher(s): Modus Games
Release Date: TBA
Based on a fictionalized 90s version of the Philippines, Until Then is an exciting mix of narrative and mystery, with some modern-day attachments to draw people into the game. And in my case, it worked. Upon starting the game, I was introduced to a school student, Mark, who was slumbering in his bed. With him not getting up and not being able to get him to move, the game had a slick way of starting things off by having you click the on-screen “Start” button. Doing so would cause the alarm clock next to Mark to alarm. However, clicking it once would only alarm once, which Mark ignored. It wasn’t until I figured out that I had to repeatedly click start that it made the alarm clock more annoying and finally woke up Mark. I thought that was a nice touch, and it made me chuckle a bit.
Afterward, this would send Mark, navigated by our directions and choices throughout the game, and it was quite a bit of fun. After getting used to Mark, the game would eventually introduce me to this world, including his friends and school activities, including not doing a school report. I was scared to death that another friend and classmate would demolish them if they didn’t get their act together. During this segment, while Mark and his friend, Ryan, crammed a school report., it was up to me to dictate how it was structured. It reminded me of when I was in high school, as I waited until the last minute to do a book report despite being told to do it. That segment was pretty funny, and I loved it.
During another segment, I found Mark and several of his friends talking about who has a crush on whom, while another person mentioned they’re looking forward to seeing the new students who will be attending the school so that they could see who they could creep on. It’s the stuff that you may have had conventions with your best friends in your younger days, or maybe you still do. In a way, it brought me back to my younger times, as I’m what people call old, and it made me miss the times I had hanging out with my friends back in the neighborhood I grew up in, with friends that I’ve lost track of over the years. It’s some powerful stuff, that’s for sure.
The game also featured a fun little mini-game where the main character and a side character I won’t spoil went to get some food. Despite it coming out of nowhere, It was cute and enjoyable. I genuinely hope more of these unexpected events occur, but it only helped pull me into a game I usually wouldn’t give the time of day to. Yet, I’ve found myself sitting at the keyboard and watching everything unfold, looking to see what would happen next.
If anything, the best way to describe this game is a “Slice of Life” meets “Rom Com,” with some Unsolved Mysteries (I loved that show) sprinkled in. I know these aren’t usually my type of game, but this one has grown on me.
When games imitate real-life
A recurring theme in Until Then is the use of smartphones, which is something we see in our daily lives. During my time with the demo, I used a smartphone to send or receive messages from those in my social circle and talk about stuff that a teenager would do, such as talk about recent rumors, set up meeting times, and talk about the upcoming prom. The incorporation of the usage of smartphones is a nice touch, and it drew me in as I was able to associate with that since it’s something we all do in real life.
I’m also not blind to the fact that a gaming series, Dark Souls, gets some acknowledgment as being a popular gaming series in the game called “Darkfiends.” It’s here that Mark and a possible interest talk about playing Darkfiends 3 if they can find some time to do so.
I can’t quite put my finger on what’s going on
While all the events are happening, a narrative of uncertainty is slowly rising. Mark experiences something he can’t quite understand early on and blows it off at the start of the game. Later, one of Mark’s friends mentions rain, to which he states it hasn’t rained in days, if not weeks. This causes his friend to question and doubt herself and would be something that lingers for part of the demo.
This pops up again later towards the end of the demo when Mark and that same friend go into a more in-depth conversation about the rain and a strange event; that causes Mark to doubt himself, so he pulls out a smartphone and pulls up a weather app. It’s an exciting mix of narrative and social activity, and it’s something that, if I had a conversation with someone about the weather, I’d do the same thing. The convenience and the usage of technology are pretty apparent with smartphone usage, among other things, making appearances.
Toward the end, Mark and another friend enjoy a tender moment outside a convenience store. They hang out and talk about potential candidates for romantic partners as they look up the new students attending their school on a smartphone. It’s here when things start to go weird again when Mark sees the name and image of a student, swearing that he knows this person. But why couldn’t he remember them? How did he know them? As Mark starts to zone out, creeping out his friend, it starts to rain… something that hasn’t happened in that location in weeks. It’s here where I started wondering if the rain had some meaning to it. Was this a signal of something that was going to happen? Why did it start raining now? Why can’t Mark remember things that he should?
Sadly, the demo ended just as I hoped to find out what this meant. What? That’s it? I needed more. What is going to happen to Mark and his friend? What is it about the rain? With so many questions I’d have, thanks to my experience with Until Then, I can say I’m hooked. While this game wasn’t on my radar before, and these weren’t the types of games I’d usually play, I will be looking out for this.
I know some gamers are tired of pixel art games, but I can’t get enough of them. Despite that, Until Then features some fantastic visuals of the game’s fictionalized version of the Philippines that must be seen in action to appreciate them truly. Especially the locales, including the school, Mark’s apartment, and the various other places you’ll explore during the demo. The sound usage in the game is equally impressive, and the audio mix is excellent, from being on the subway while listening to everyone around you to the sounds of the high school. It’s all good stuff.
Sadly, I couldn’t try the game on the Steam Deck or Asus ROG Ally, as the game requires a keyboard and mouse; there isn’t any gamepad or controller support. I could have jerry-rigged something in the meantime or used a Bluetooth keyboard, which would have defeated the purpose. For now, the demo is a KBM affair; you’ve been warned.
I think I’m in love
As I mentioned, I usually don’t play these sorts of games, but after playing the Until Then demo, I’ve liked what I’ve played. It has the right amount of narrative and mystery that has sucked me in, and I can’t wait to see where this all goes.
Sadly, Until Then doesn’t have a release date, but thankfully, you can try out the Until Then demo yourself, thanks to the ongoing Steam Next Fest.