When I first caught wind of The Pedestrian, I knew that it was going to be something special. And, after a short time with the demo, I am pleased to say that The Pedestrian did not disappoint. Skookum Arts brings something to the platforming genre that other games developers should take note of individuality and creativity.
Starting off, the initial gameplay is nothing out of the ordinary. As the player, you walk through a simple tutorial. One of the interesting things about The Pedestrian is that, unlike many other games, it doesn’t feel generic. Through the tutorial, The Pedestrian does a wonderful job at explaining the dynamics of the game without laying out what you are to do at the introductory level. It starts by showing the player general concept and then throws them directly into the level forcing them to engage in practical application of what they were just taught. This, on top of an intriguing design, which we will talk about more later, immediately made me feel like I was playing something new and exciting. It is a nice touch to see that from the beginning The Pedestrian gives the player something to enjoy without drudging through the initial introductions.
The Story (Or lack-there-of):
It isn’t long after the tutorial that the game’s biggest fault comes to fruition: there isn’t a story. Since we are dealing with a demo it is forgivable, but, as the game stands, there is no real plot or drive to The Pedestrian. The closest thing we have to one is the premise of the game stated by Skookum on their press kit page:
“What’s it like inside the world of public restroom signs? Aside from the fact that the symbols are on the job 24/7, dutifully directing humans, is there more to their straight and narrow life? Can an icon of this nature have an adventure and discover solutions to obstacles outside of it’s boxed-in environment? Enter the world of The Pedestrian and find out!”
Though I can’t say this doesn’t take away from the experience, as short-coming it is far overshadowed by the fact that the game dynamics are, simply said, quite entertaining. During the short demo, I never found myself not enjoying my experience even though I had no motivation to do so other than to experience the gameplay. I will say this, I am not sure if Skookum has anything under development regarding story in the future, but if they do not I have to admit I would be quite disappointed.
Now, enough with the game overview. Let’s talk about the gameplay. While other platformers build their gameplay around generic platform navigation, Skookum takes a much different approach. Instead of the traditional approach, The Pedestrian uses two-dimensional “restroom signs” that act as small boxes in which the main character, a simple stick figure, must navigate in his or her pursuit of advancing from point A to point B. The platforms are a part of the puzzle, they are an extension of the player, and instead of acting as an object for the player to overcome, the platforms are an integral part of overcoming the true obstacles: chaos and disorder. To advance to the next platform, the player must rearrange and connect the signs in the correct order so that the character can travel from sign to sign, leading to the final sign which advances the character onto the next level. The paths needed to travel across the signs grow in complexity with each level and requires more brain power from the player to solve.
Now, what would great gameplay be without great design? With that, The Pedestrian has an amazing design aesthetic to it. It strikes a balance between 2D and 3D in a way I haven’t seen anywhere else. There are two levels of the atmosphere in the game. There is the atmosphere in which the gameplay exists in the signs mentioned and the atmosphere in which the signs themselves exist. You find yourself navigating through various environments in which the signs may exist.
The game starts in what feels like a hotel, but shortly afterward the player finds themselves hoping and jumping between signs in what appears to be some sort of a warehouse. This is because Skookum has designed the game in a way so that as the player advances through the levels, there is a cinematic sequence that reveals a new piece of the over encompassing environment. That means you are not only exploring the signs and solving puzzles in them but as the player you also get to explore an even grander environment, adding a subtle new dimension to the gameplay. Without such design aesthetic, it is possible that the 2D black and white gameplay of the signs could become dull and underwhelming. As well as some sort of a story, I am also curious to see where Skookum takes their level design before launch. I am assuming we will have various environments and landscapes at the time of release. Perhaps the player will be exploring busy shopping centers, hopping between traffic through city streets, or going from class to class in a school. Only time will tell.
Where other game developers seek nostalgia in creating platforming games, Skookum seeks innovation. The premise is simple, the game is fun, and Skookum has introduced a game dynamic that brings about a welcome change to the gaming community without sacrificing some of the key elements we have all come to know and love in platformers. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the future of The Pedestrian.
In fact, last month Skookum ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for The Pedestrian that acquired almost $10,000 more than the $21,000 pledge. And with that, expect to hear more about the game in the future from us. The Kickstarter page estimates that the release date will be sometime in June of this year.