With My Past Review – Puzzle Therapy

Everyone can empathize with waking up late at night and sitting in agony as your brain forcefully makes you relive a traumatic, embarrassing, or heartbreaking moment. Our past is with us forever, and how it manifests in the present is a toss-up from day to day. With My Past, the debut game from developer Imagine Wings Studio, attempts to blend those feelings with platforming-puzzle gameplay and does so excellently. The result is a therapeutic five-hour adventure I’ll be thinking about long after today. 

With My Past Game Informer Review Edigger Imagine Wings Studio Celeste

After being startled awake at 3 a.m. by her past, an unnamed blue-haired girl goes on a journey through her labyrinth mind, which is holding her back. This translates to six distinct chapters of gameplay, each with a unique theme in narrative and mechanics. The first introduces you to her “Past,” the throughline mechanic with which With My Past shines. Your past is just you, but two seconds prior. If you walk forward and jump, two seconds later, it will too. With My Past playfully builds upon this in its opening moments as it teaches you the ropes, but by the end of the game, I was pulling off moves that bent my brain in all directions.

As you progress through each chapter, With My Past introduces new mechanics, like a Kiwi fruit that lets you teleport to your past’s location or a way to solidify your past and climb on top of it to reach new heights. It’s hard to describe how unique this mechanic plays in With My Past because it’s genuinely unlike anything I’ve played in a puzzle game, but Imagine Wings Studios excels at adding new layers to its depth each step of the journey. I’m reminded of 2018’s Celeste, which does the same, incorporating narrative elements into the game’s mechanics. 

On that same note, With My Past is more vague than Celeste’s journey of transformation and self-love, instead allowing players to graft their own past onto the protagonist here. But it works well. As on-screen words that tell the story dive into self-hate, the ways our past bubbles up at the worst times, and the loneliness sometimes felt even when surrounded by love, I found myself thinking about my past, and it was wondrous to watch how With My Past suggests tackling those issues through gameplay. 

Your in-game past transforms from a mysterious specter, to an enemy on the hunt, to an ally you must reckon with and understand as a part of what makes you. And it does so while With My Past serves up great puzzle after puzzle. A handful of the 150+ challenges left me more frustrated than satisfied, but a skip option allows players to keep the story moving along. My only real dissatisfaction happened in the game’s final (and only) “boss” fight. Perhaps I missed the point, but in an otherwise cohesive experience, it felt unattached to everything else I played through. 

Void of voice acting, with a minimal soundscape coloring the protagonist’s steps, With My Past’s score does the talking here, and the result is one of my favorite scores of the year. It’s grand, sweeping, and almost feels more at home in a movie theater than coming from my desktop screen, but the game’s music is as integral to this journey as the story and its puzzles. 

With My Past Game Informer Review Edigger Imagine Wings Studio Celeste

I began With My Past yesterday on a whim and finished it later that afternoon with an aching smile on my face; that “hurts so good” type of smile. With My Past is a short but powerful burst of emotional storytelling on top of excellent and intuitive puzzle design. With few misses, it’s an impressive reminder of the power of games and how savvy developers can blend storytelling into how we play.

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