The Kids We Were is a game that falls somewhere between a visual novel and a point and click adventure. It is story first and foremost, interaction and pure gameplay very much second. Think of it as a visual novel that you can move around and collect things in and you’ll understand the pitch. That undersells the experience though because The Kids We Were brings a great story to the table with some emotional weight.
You play as Minato who is a teenager with an ill mother and a gravely ill younger sister. His sister Mirai needs a bone marrow transplant and neither Minato nor his mother are a match. In desperation, the kids decide to find their long absent father who left the family years ago as a last hope for a donor. Doing so triggers a weird time warp around a comet passing by the town they are in every 33 years where he meets what seems like another version of himself giving him a warning. Mirai will die if he doesn’t travel back to 33 years in the past and solve seven mysteries given to him in a diary. Minato takes on the challenge and arrives back in 1980’s Japan with 72 hours to solve the mysteries.
Doing so, you’ll wander around the town of Kagami in a beautiful block pixel art style. I love the vibrant colours and shading – it feels like cute Lego and reminds me of 3D Dot Heroes. It suits the mood well as characters comically jump, waddle walk, roll around and laugh like toys. There aren’t very many areas to explore but seeing them all time jump is a nice variation. Pushing the story along is as simple as wandering around to the right location and talking to someone. You can’t get stuck or miss a beat as even if you were asleep, the hint system tells you where to go next. There is no difficulty here so its all about the story. The story delivers and feels like an emotionally charged child’s imagination. It has some twists and turns towards the end of its 16 chapters but I had guessed most of the plot. What holds the game together is excellent characterisation and a great script. You quickly befriend four other children whom all come from troubled families. They are support to each other and want to look after their friends whilst wanting to solve the mysteries too. Saying much more would spoil the main fun but it all weaves together nicely and ends satisfyingly.
Outside of the story, 90ish collectables from 80’s Japan are available to find. You do this by finding coins and buying the items in gotcha machines (auto prizes thankfully – no luck involved) or by finding them in the corners of the maps you explore. I found all but one in my playthrough and they showcase sweets, toys, tech and cultural things from 1980’s Japan in a block style. They don’t add much to the game but make a nice gameplay diversion and if you want to explore off the beaten story path, that’s the incentive.
Graphically the game ran smoothly and looks beautiful and the soundtrack, whilst not especially memorable, fit the mood well. If I were to have any niggles about the game it was that there’s only a few areas you actually explore over and over and over again and more locations would have broken up the story. I also found the lead female child to be a little too stroppy for her own good but her backstory makes it more plateable. The Kids We Were does play itself though and I know that will be an issue for some gamers. This is an interactive story rather than a true point and click adventure and knowing that going in will set your expectations accordingly.
It is a lovely story though. Seeing kids band together from households that aren’t functioning well and looking out for each other is oddly sad and heart-warming at the same time. The story has some adult themes but zero difficulty or barriers to progressing through it. Enjoyable and sweet, with a splash of sci-fi thrown in, this will give you a warm smile in cold January.
Review copy provided by developer.
The Kids We Were
A lovely story that is a little light on interaction but heavy on the emotional heartstrings. Great for those nostalgic about your childhood adventures in your head.
Beautiful blocky pixel art visuals that feel vibrant and childlike.
A story that whilst largely predictable, hits all the emotional beats and gravitas that a good story should.
Collectables and 80's Japan nostalgia.
Feels more than the sum of its parts.
Only a few locations that you constantly revisit.
Very little actual interaction or sway in the story - it plays itself.
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