Hidden Gem: Pendula Swing - The Complete Journey
I have tried to get into games with a lot of dialogue and backstory before, but they always fail to catch my attention or interest. Pendula Swing - The Complete Journey, however, did, and so much more than I expected. Welcome to another entry of Hidden Gem! Where we find games that may have gone under the radar and bring them right to your spotlight!
Now, allow me to introduce you to the latest game to capture my heart: Pendula Swing. In this charming point-and-click adventure, you follow the story of Brialynne, a hero that already saved the world and retreated to an island to spend her life with her wife. Although they live a happily married life, Brialynne is left widowed by the unfortunate circumstance of their different lifespans. You see, Pendula Swing is set in the United States during the 1920s but with a fantasy twist — there are many different races (from goblins to dwarves to orcs), and they're facing racism and prejudice from the war the main character won.
Although the game is a bit simple in the graphics and gameplay (even to the point of not really having animations when petting animals or kissing NPCs), it does a wonderful job at constructing a world that feels alive and unique. The atmosphere of every area in the city really captured my heart, and I found myself getting sidetracked for nearly six hours as I devoured all the sidequests I could find. The world may be saved, but it's still plagued by the pandemic of humanity (or, to not be species-ist, plagued by humanoids). For those that know the USA’s story during the 1920s, the game will be more meaningful, as the developer mentions that they aimed to put another spin on all that was happening back then, such as the suffragette movement, the Speakeasy, and immigration problems.
Although other games explore similar subjects of politics and awful humanity (such as Fallout 4), none of them captured me the way Pendula Swing did. I loved that there were so many people in need of help due to very tangible issues. Goblins and orcs lined up at the entrance of Duberdon, being turned away for being minorities, and beggars sit by hoping for some spare cash to buy a warm meal; it all feels very chaotic. So, as Brialynne, you'll have the opportunity to help these characters through small acts of kindness, such as helping a family of struggling goblins smuggle medicine across the entrance of Duberdon, feeding hungry clans that can't afford meals for their many children, or even just helping a caring mother call back all her kids to eat some lunch. Every sidequest felt very personal, and I found it easy to lose myself in the world.
Although the game has a bit of clunkiness to it at times (such as the movement and the slightly awkward social situations), it's easy to overlook those flaws once you get into the world's stories. Each district of Duberdon felt different, urging me to explore any interesting situation I could stick my nose into. Although at the beginning it feels a bit strange to be chatting everyone up (even going into people's houses when they're in the middle of changing to ask about what's bothering them), the game eventually smooths out, and it becomes obvious that Brialynne is just a true hero at her core.
That's not to say that the game forces you to be a hero stereotype, as you have access to a wide variety of answers you can give in every quest, allowing you to choose whether you want to be an embittered hero or a complete sweetheart. I never strayed from the path of empathy and helping, but I do plan to return to the world of Pendula and find out what happens if I treat everyone like crap and demand they bow to their saviour. Additionally, you can change Brialynne home and clothes (although with a low amount of depth) and even find someone to romance. Not that I ever had time to think about love, as I rampantly ran throughout Duberdon attempting to give orcs education and feeding every hungry goblin I found!
All in all, I think everyone that likes a point-and-click adventure with tangible issues should try this game out. It'll be easy to look past the few flaws and sink into the original and upbeat 1920s soundtrack once you get the game's flow!