d_w's The Pedestrian (PC) review

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  • d_w has written a total of 9 reviews. The last one was for The Pedestrian
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The Pedestrian has some cool ideas, but it doesn't meet its potential

The Pedestrian has a cool idea and aesthetic, but it falls back on just pretty typical puzzle-platformer and one-hit-death platformer tropes that prevent it from being very interesting beyond the nifty premise.

The core aesthetic of this game is rad. You play as a little person icon that adventures through various signage through a dreamlike city. When you reach the exit of one sign, you’ll pan the camera through the environment to a new sign. This part of the game is its shining achievement. It works well as transitions between levels, but the best is when the surfaces the levels are drawn on have some physicality in the greater world. Example, there’s a point where a level is on the side of a large crate that’s suspended from a crane. The crate rocks back and forth as it moves and stops with the crane. It’s a cool conceit done well.

The main mechanical gimmick involves you arranging the signs and connecting the exits. There are some clever variations of this throughout the game, but it’s never as interesting as I hoped. One the reasons it falls short of its potential is reliance on very ordinary puzzle-platformer conventions. If you’ve played a puzzle-platformer in the last 15 years then you’ve already experienced a lot of what this game does. The addition of moving rooms around and altering which rooms they connect to tends to make things feel more tedious than clever.

This is especially expressed when you fail. For most of the game, if you touch an obstacle (like a buzzsaw or laser beam) you die and the level resets. Occasionally you have to intentionally die to reset the world, but often death means you have redo the puzzle you just did from the beginning. This wouldn’t be so bad but the game doesn’t have the sort of precise control of a more Meatboy-like game. The platforming is never so demanding, but sometimes the lack of precision will cause an annoying death or you’ll end up putting an item in a place you didn't intend. Then you have to do the last 5 minutes over when you already solved the puzzle in your head 10 minutes ago.

The actual puzzle design is also rather uninspiring. They have some real clever ideas, but never quite put them together to make fun puzzles. Many of them devolve into situations where you know exactly what to do and you just need to execute it in the correct order. On the occasions where I did find myself stuck, it was mostly because of some fiddly solutions that almost always involved the game’s equivalent of backtracking.

Overall I find it to be a mediocre game that has a really cool premise. I almost wish it was more about exploration than puzzle solving. Like if this game was mostly a 2D walking simulator I think I would have had a better time with it, especially considering it’s end game mechanics. As of now though, I don’t really think I could recommend it. It’s not terrible and I suspect it’ll win some awards, but it doesn’t reach its potential. I will say that I watched the current world record speedrun and it makes for a good speedrun game.

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