When the Past was Around explores the beauty of loss


A girl and an anthropomorphic owl sit back to back near a window

When the Past was Around is a puzzle adventure created by Indonesian developer Mojiken and Indie publisher Chorus Worldwide that follows the emotional journey of a girl in her early 20s. I remember my early 20s clearly. I was young and naive, meeting new people in college, learning about new ideas and new world views, constantly improving from my mistakes, and figuring out who I truly was. It seems like fun and games on the outside, but there is so much emotional growth happening during this stage of life. Sometimes it can be confusing and terrifying. Sometimes it can feel like you are alone. For many of us, it is a time when we lose something we love dearly.

A girl stares at a dark figure who is trapped in a cage, sitting on a stool

The bittersweet point-and-click narrative of When the Past was Around follows a young woman named Eda and her anthropomorphic owl lover, who is sometimes presented as a nameless black figure. The lack of dialogue does not detract from the sentimental aspects of this story. Rather, the narrative is enhanced by the hand-drawn artwork that creates a sense of serenity mixed with melancholy as the player interacts with different puzzles that are used to help Eda move on from her heartbreak. Some of the puzzles may be simple, but each one takes the player on an experience through the protagonist’s broken memories to cope with her loss.

A cursor selects a piano key and a woman cuddles next to a dark figure wrapped in a blanket in the background

In addition to the beautiful artwork, music plays a big role in Eda’s emotional journey. Little details like a radio resting on a table or a grand piano waiting for its keys to be touched add an extra layer of personality to this game. With original music composed by Masdito “ittou” Bachtiar, the atmospheric theme of When the Past was Around is certain to tug at one’s heartstrings. The two-hour journey might seem short, but the secrets untangled to reveal the deeper message within the game may cause a few tears to be shed.

A woman dances with an anthropomorphic owl in a greenhouse

When the Past was Around is already available for PC on Steam with hundreds of overwhelmingly positive reviews. For those wanting to play the game on a different console, you can expect it to launch for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in mid-December. If you are looking to buy a unique game for a friend or family member this Christmas, this game arrives at the perfect time. Perhaps there is a loved one who won’t be present this holiday season. But maybe this is an opportunity to celebrate the life and memories through the touching tale of When the Past was Around.