Not every video game needs to be an action explosion that has you fighting on top of a soaring fighter jet. On that same note, not every game needs to be a poignant piece of art striving to encapsulate the human condition either. The thing is — most games don’t realize that. They’re all swinging for one of those two fences every time. By comparison, Half Past Fate from developer Serenity Forge and publisher Way Down Deep is an oddity because it knows exactly what it is: a romantic comedy that uses some scant adventure and puzzle elements to tell its story. It’s not going to change your life; it’s not trying to either. It just wants to make you feel good for a while, and in that respect, it succeeds.
An easy, breezy story
Half Past Fate comprises 12 chapters with a narrative that jumps back and forth in time to create a sense of mystery. One chapter might take place just a couple hours in the past from now, whereas another chapter occurs over eight years in the past. As you play, you see how a variety of seemingly random characters are actually connected by just a degree or two of separation, and multiple romances end up blooming before the credits roll.
In the first couple chapters, which are literally about coffee and tea respectively, I was worried Half Past Fate would be about a bunch of hipsters in obnoxious situations. Mercifully, that is not the case, and I ended up liking most of the game’s diverse cast, who range from business owners and documentary filmmakers to video game clerks. Each chapter has you controlling one specific character, and weirdly enough, the video game clerk, Jaren, actually has the most enjoyable and endearing storyline. His story basically involves hunting down a cute girl’s real name, place of employment, and phone number. (It’s a lot more innocent than it sounds.) Although, it’s worth noting that it’s annoyingly easy to accidentally skip dialogue for some reason.
It’s an experience more than a game
In terms of actual gameplay in Half Past Fate — well, there isn’t much of it. Gameplay consists entirely of locating random objects in small environments to solve assorted problems, and to call any of that “puzzles” would be an exaggeration. It’s very simple problem-solving that all exists strictly in the service of furthering the story. For example, there is an instance where your character has to go talk to his roommates in order to locate some boxes in their attic. That’s the gameplay in this game.
Thus, the game lives and dies on its aesthetics and its story. And Half Past Fate shines on the aesthetics. The “pop-up” pixel art is beautiful and makes wonderful use of color to set the right tone for a given scene or character. The soundtrack too, although it recycles music pretty regularly, is a delight, and there was one song I kept humming after the game was over.
The story, meanwhile, is fairly entertaining overall. Each chapter lasts about 20-30 minutes on average, depending on how talented you are at locating random objects, but not every chapter is created equal. Some are just kind of dull, like the aforementioned attic chapter. Also, in general, I would describe the writing quality as perfectly adequate — but never extraordinary. And even though it’s a romantic comedy, there was only one scene that ever had me giggling a lot.
Half Past Fate makes you feel good
Ultimately, Half Past Fate is a game about walking and talking for a few hours. Optional Achievement hunting can extend the game’s length if you so choose, but this is without a doubt an interactive movie with some gameplay tossed in to glue plot segments together. Your general predilections as a person will ultimately dictate if that’s worth the price point. Nonetheless, with its gorgeous art, energetic soundtrack, and breezy narrative, Half Past Fate just exudes positivity from top to bottom. That should count for something.
A review code was provided by the publisher.