Okay, I might have started with ‘imagine this’ but in this current era of globalization one might not have to actually ‘imagine’ because ‘this’ is a reality for most employed people. So you are at your desk in your office and there are tons of sticky notes stuck to the foam partition before you. Scribbled with mundane things like tasks to do, deadlines, email IDs, passwords, nuclear launch codes, etc, you usually give them attention with resentment as you already have too many things on your platter. But what if the words and letters start jumping from one sticky note to another, to the files and folders on your desk, to your diary in your drawer, across the adjacent monitors, won’t that be interesting? Of course, it is, why am I even asking! And The Pedestrian makes this exact thing possible.
Story and Writing
Ah, the smooth and calm beginning! You start as a minimalist male/female 2D character similar to those on washroom doors, then ….just go ahead! Explore the gorgeously detailed 3D backdrop of a bustling city including workshops, sewers, metro stations, restaurants, while you traverse whiteboards, signboards, blueprints, and even sticky notes. Your stick person, despite being confined to a 2D plane, ultimately breaks free and starts navigating the world around hoping traffic signs, notice boards, bistro menu cards, and whatnot. This is as simple a plot can get and nothing’s holding you back, except the doorway to the next set of signs.
Gameplay and Mechanics
The Pedestrian is essentially a puzzle platformer where you’ve to make way through a set of 2D boards to reach the exit which will lead to the next set of 2D boards. For that, you have the option to zoom out and see an overview of all the boards/notes that you’ve to connect. Only then you can travel from one note to another and ultimately to the end. Sounds simple? Not nearly, as the doors and ladders printed on these boards, will connect to other boards only if they are properly aligned, and there are often obstacles in the way that might impede this alignment. In these cases you might have to rethink; maybe you’re doing it wrong, maybe the right door on this board should not open into the left door on that board. This is because the game is quite linear in this aspect; if it’s not physically possible to connect one board to another then it’s never meant to.
Although the puzzles aren’t really that much difficult but initially they might feel overwhelming when you zoom out and see there are about ten notices on the foam notice board or wall which you’ve to connect. In that essence, The Pedestrian is like a jigsaw puzzle of some sort. A bit extra difficulty lies in the fact that when you disturb a connection you’ve created, the entire puzzle resets: switches get deactivated, keys are thrown back to the original position, etc. But the puzzle reset mechanism can help when you’ve cornered yourself into a dead-end and there’s no going back. Furthermore, some regions appear in certain puzzles beyond which you can’t carry crucial items like keys. A problem arises when these regions seem to exist right before the exit door. This is when you should rethink your strategy. Like I said, The Pedestrian quite linear, which means there must be a way to circumvent such regions and carry the key to the exit.
Despite its seeming linearity, the aspect of discovering and utilizing the mechanics on your own was what I liked when speaking of gameplay. You see, The Pedestrian has no tutorials. So when new puzzle mechanics appear, the game gives two or three easy levels initially to make you familiar with the new tricks. After that, you are on your own to work things out yourself. You can always look at the hints that are right there before you, like sticky notes pasted on these boards. Ah, the joy that comes when you are suddenly able to solve a puzzle that you couldn’t at first! Workout, connect, activate and if it doesn’t, reset. You’re free to kick your brains as much as you like because the whole city is waiting for you to get discovered.
But I do wish that the game would reward me after completing a big puzzle, like a grade sheet or something, but no! Like your annoying boss at your office, The Pedestrian throws the next puzzle at your face once you complete one set giving you very little room to lay back, well, unless you choose to do so. In fact, I started experiencing slight boredom after continuously solving puzzles and making my stick person jump trains into a more massive area where even puzzles have sub-puzzles. You can’t just speedrun The Pedestrian in a single barrage, you’ve to break it in morsels of let’s say twenty-thirty minutes at best to perfectly appreciate what the devs have to offer, then come back later with fresh vigor. It’s like one of those ‘hobby games’ which you play when you want to take a break from your main game.
Graphics, Performance & Sound
The visuals are absolutely outstanding. Hats off to him/her who thought ‘let’s confine ourselves to a 2D world in a 3D world’. The smooth transition of the camera from one colorful and extremely detailed location to another all, while you’re just hoping signboards, makes you really wonder how tiny you are in the grand scale of things. But even then, your actions have big ramifications (like moving a train from one part of the city to another). Not a single, I repeat, not even a single board feels out of place. Every single one you jump into will feel normal as if it was always there where it was meant to be. This effect is mainly due to the spot-on shading and textures on these boards, like dirt and stains that make it a relevant part of their surrounding. In addition to it is the observable day-night transition which means all these adventures of your tiny stick person occur within a single day. This goes without saying that The Pedestrian speaks more using the background, something which only a handful of games care to do.
Except for some slight frame drops especially in the part where you traverse through the traffic signals in the middle of a busy road, there are no other performance issues. As for the sound department, The Pedestrian strikes a clean home-run! Funky yet often peaceful tracks do more than just motivate you to play this game after you come back from office and just want to relax. No doubt about it as to why the devs preferred to release their OST as DLC for 199 INR because they know how dope the soundtracks are.
The Pedestrian is a good game, good for passing time. It was built like that, to act as a small break from whatever it is that you are doing. Even though the puzzles feel a bit easier and similar to the previous ones, you should play for the glorious detailing the world has to offer. and keep doing that until you feel like breaking your break. Because the only way the game rewards you is by thrusting even more puzzles. The Pedestrian is currently available on Steam for 529 INR.