Hey people, it's ScionVyse and welcome back to Scionlyte, where I take a quick look at smaller or newer games that have piqued my interest. Today I'm going to be taking a look at a really interesting game that flew completely under my radar until its release, the 2D puzzle platformer, The Pedestrian.
The Pedestrian was developed by Skookum Arts, and released on Steam January 29, 2020. This was a Kickstarter project that thankfully succeeded, but like many successful Kickstarter projects, The Pedestrian ended up in development much longer than expected. The original release according to the Kickstarter was set to be mid-2017, but that obviously didn't happen. These delays are always a possibility with Kickstarter projects, but if that extra two and a half years of development made the Pedestrian a much better game, then it was worth the wait. So, does the Pedestrian justify its 6 year development cycle? Let's find out.
So, the developers advertise the game as a 2.5D puzzler, which in this case means the game takes place in a fully 3D world, fully modeled and animated, but the gameplay itself is basically entirely limited to a 2D plane. The art style here is really nice. The style of the world isn’t particularly unique, a lot of games use an art style that is fairly similar to this, where nothing is particularly exaggerated or out of the ordinary, but it’s bright and colourful, that sort of thing. This works fine though, since the backgrounds aren’t really the focus of the visuals, they’re window dressing, and perfectly acceptable as that. The real focus is on the road signs.
You play as a stick-figure, one of the people you'd see on washroom doors, or pedestrian crossing signs, hence the name, The Pedestrian. The game takes full advantage of this aesthetic too. As you progress through the game, the puzzle areas you move through will take different forms from road signs to chalk drawings to blueprints. For the most part these have no bearing on the gameplay itself, and is just an interesting piece of visual design, but every once in a while you'll see a piece of signage that is cemented to a wall or something like that, which does affect gameplay. I’d might as well start talking about that, since the gameplay is the standout feature here. The Pedestrian, as I said, is a 2D puzzle platformer, so largely what you’ll be doing is running and jumping, while solving puzzles in order to progress. The Pedestrian has a few mechanics that are really interesting that lets it stand out from the pack here though.
First, is that the gameplay is all done via these signs, and in order to solve the puzzles, you’re going to have to move those around. Each puzzle takes place on a screen, and you’ll see a number of signs that you’ll need to use. You’ll need to manipulate the signs in order to have your pedestrian reach the exit. Each sign will have doors or ladders that you’ll have to connect, and in order to have those paths be usable, you’ll need to properly align the signs. This, on its own is a really cool mechanic with a lot of possible iterations, and the game definitely utilizes it well; but of course it’s not always just that simple. There are a lot of other things that you’ll need to do in these puzzles, and at a glance it’s not that unique or interesting- you’ll be moving boxes, you’ll be using wire to bring power to a door, activating switches that change the available platforms, etc, but the added complexity added with the sign mechanic really makes these much more interesting.
For instance, you may need to plan out a sign path to move a box to a specific area, or use wire to power on a switch in a different sign, which then activates a bounce pad in yet another different sign. There will even be some puzzles that you’ll have to use or manipulate the outside world in order to solve them. Like, powering on a piston to move out of the way, or connecting signs and wires in specific ways to transfer electricity somewhere you need it. Even that isn’t everything, since there are some signs that will allow you to move your pedestrian to any sign regardless of doorways, and various hazards you’ll have to avoid along the way like spikes and lasers. And there are even more mechanics here that really vary up the experience too that I don’t want to directly spoil too much. It really requires a lot of thought, and unlike most puzzle games, if I encountered a difficult screen, I would just sit at that screen, planning out what I’d need to do before even trying things out. Thankfully though, for the most part the game does a great job of introducing things slowly, and properly iterating on puzzles, introducing more and more elements as you go, and really getting a lot of mileage out of each specific mechanic.
Now, I say for the most part, since there is one puzzle near the very end of the game that does something very different from the rest of the game. Nothing is really done to introduce the mechanics of this, and while it’s really, really, cool, and I don’t even want to show what it is since it’s such an interesting twist, from a mechanical standpoint, if you don’t happen across the solution, you can be pretty stranded there for a while. That’s really the only time I felt the puzzles were unintuitive or hard to understand though, so it’s not really that bad. That being said, another small criticism I would bring up is that I felt like there was a bit of a difficulty spike to the puzzles in the middle section of the game, like, for a few screens near the midpoint of the game the puzzles felt like they were way harder than the ones that came before them, and after that point the puzzles dropped off in difficulty and never really reached that level of challenge again. I guess it could just be me struggling with some specific combinations of mechanics, but I don’t think so. Either way, I did still end up enjoying the puzzles a lot, and for the most part I felt that the puzzles were challenging enough, and got me to think about the mechanics each time in order to derive solutions. Really good stuff.
Moving on to the story, there really isn’t much to say. There is no actual story to mention here at all, there is progression, and a clear goal- the pedestrian is solving puzzles in order to collect parts which all plug into a modified gameboy, but the reasons for that are essentially always either unclear or nonexistent. The ending doesn’t really answer any questions either, it really just makes things harder to understand. I’ve seen a few theories as to what the game’s story could mean, but they all feel like stretches at best and attempts to force meaning into places where there is none at worst. I dunno, maybe someone can prove me wrong, but it really doesn’t feel like there’s a lot going on here. The music, on the other hand, has a lot going on. The soundtrack was composed by Logan Heyes, and I think it’s really good. It sounds great on its own, and it definitely feels like something you’d probably hear in an animated slice of life film. While it isn’t constantly present, it’s great when it does show up, and really helps give the game a lot of personality. I do wish there was a bit more music here though- as I said, the music isn’t always present, and since there isn’t a lot in terms of foley or sound effects, the game can sound eerily empty when the music isn’t around. Even a few looping background tracks while puzzle solving would have done a lot to liven up those more empty areas.
All in all I do feel like the Pedestrian is a really good game and a great addition to the 2D puzzler genre. The mechanics are interesting, the concept is really cool, the puzzles are really well designed, and while there’s no real story to speak of, it’s got a lot of personality. It’s really short, I finished my first playthrough in 3 hours, even while getting stuck a few times, so it’s not a game that’ll engross you for more than an afternoon at best, and like most puzzle games, there isn’t a lot of replayability. There are a few secrets, there are hidden hats strewn about the game that you can find and collect, but that’s really it for extras, so what you see is what you get, really. The game’s about 20 dollars as well, so I can definitely see that as being pretty steep for a short experience with very little reason to go back, with the soundtrack being an extra 5 if you like buying soundtracks. But, for people looking for a well designed, interesting 2D puzzle game, you can’t really go too wrong with The Pedestrian. I definitely recommend it, and I don’t think people who were waiting on the game since 2014 would walk away disappointed either.