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Until Then Preview

Until Then Preview

A decade has passed since I was a high schooler, but I still have dreams about missed assignments, running late to class, and messing up presentations. Until Then's young protagonist, Mark Borja, is still dealing with all that stuff — but with the added mystery of unreliable memories and strange instances of déjà vu.

Though odd events ramp up the unusual vibes the more you progress, this story-driven visual novel starts off pretty mundane. The demo opens with Mark ignoring his buzzing alarm clock, playing the piano before heading to school, and texting his friends. The main thing initially pushing the plot is an unfinished book report that he forgot to do, leaving his group partners — goofy, basketball-loving Ryan and reserved, book-smart Louise — without anything to present. This leads to a hilarious scene where he crams the assignment with Ryan to avoid Louise’s wrath. With moments like these, it’s easy to get a feel for the atmosphere Polychroma Games is establishing, as every interaction feels down-to-earth, warm, and relatable. And after this hour-long snippet of gameplay, I definitely wanted to learn more about our well-meaning slacker protagonist.

until then apps

But as I mentioned, there’s more to this coming-of-age tale than navigating school life. The focal point for the rest of the demo is Mark’s crush on Louise. Actually, it seems like everyone in this game is crushing on her, but that’s beside the point. The two end up spending more time together, and Mark attends her chess competition to cheer her on. But what’s important are the visual glitches that appear on the screen when Mark is talking to Louise. If you’ve played Oxenfree, these weird moments are very similar, as the environment gets distorted and the characters’ memories become jumbled. For instance, Louise believed it had been raining for days, but when the two checked the weather, there hadn’t been a raindrop in sight for weeks. It’s clear something strange is happening with reality, though we’ll have to wait until the game releases fully to figure out what’s really going on.

The demo also gives us a peak at the importance of building relationships with each character. You regularly get two or three dialogue options when you’re talking to others in person or over text, which can alter how that interaction goes. Early on, I had the opportunity to lie to Louise about the last-minute book report being done or come clean about not finishing it. There were also times when friends teased Mark about his crush, and I could decide how he’d play it off.

until then visual distortions

What surprised me, though, is that there are additional ways you can interact with characters. Like every person these days, Mark pulls out his phone to scroll through social media whenever there’s downtime. These apps pop up on your screen and are very interactive, letting you like, comment, and even share posts, but what’s even cooler is that a character can mention it later when you talk to them in person. These small touches of interactivity are always nice to see in a VN, and it’ll be interesting to see how your relationships progress throughout the narrative.

As for other gameplay features, I also had a chance to try out one mini-game where you have to get more fishballs at a food stand than the friend you’re with. This was pretty fun and easy to do, as you have to hit the spacebar at the right moment to get your stick to puncture it; otherwise, it might just bob to the bottom, leaving you with nothing.

until then setting

Visually, Until Then combines 2D side-scrolling with 3D environments, achieving that 2.5D perspective and giving each scene extra depth. The beautiful pixel art and smooth animations bring it all together, as every character moves gracefully through the world. Subtle changes of expression and even small hair flicks during cutscenes didn’t go unnoticed. The warm colour palette is especially dreamy, too, which pairs well with the tone set by the cast’s interactions as well as the story’s concept of unreliable memories. The Philippine-inspired interiors, landscapes, and locals were also a joy to see and interact with, especially as a half-Filipina gal myself.

If you’re looking for a stylish, down-to-earth visual novel, give Until Then’s demo a try. I’m definitely excited to play more of it when it’s released fully.

Alyssa Rochelle Payne

Alyssa Rochelle Payne

Staff Writer

Alyssa is great at saving NPCs from dragons. Then she writes about it.