PH-inspired video game releases demo preview and critics are loving it

Until Then features familiar images that evoke nostalgia from fish balls to the LRT-2 Katipunan station. 

Video games are portals to other realities. Most of the time, they take place in fictional worlds, such as the Super Mario games which are mostly set in Mushroom Kingdom, or Animal Crossing: New Horizons which sees players create their own island paradise.  

In the instances games are set in real-world settings, they usually are in places deemed cool. The hit role-playing game Persona 5 Royale, for instance, takes place in Tokyo. The hugely successful Grand Theft Auto franchise, meanwhile, includes games set in cities inspired by Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Miami, to name a few.

Until Then is an upcoming video game that takes place in a Philippine-inspired setting.

But there are outliers, too. Like a few days ago, indie game developer Polychroma Games released a demo preview that caught many Pinoys—gamer or not— by surprise: a game set in a Philippine-inspired setting.

Laced with nostalgia

I haven’t had the chance to play the demo yet but watching the trailer made me feel a lot of things, but excitement above all, because the Philippines is hardly a popular choice for a video game setting. And here we are, finally, with a full game that has our country taking center stage—and critics are loving it (more on that in a bit). 

The trailer also teems with nostalgia, with images that are indisputably Filipino—a place that looks like the LRT-2 Katipunan station, jeepneys, even those pesky orange plastic road barriers. I would love to try my hand at that tuhog-tuhog the fishball mini game! 

I occasionally play video games and my son is a huge gamer, and the visuals remind me of the pixelated presentation of games such as Minecraft or Roblox, only more charming. 

A place that looks very much like the LRT-2 Katipunan station figured heavily in the trailer.

Until Then is described as a “familiar high school melodrama” and a “narrative adventure.” Players will take on the role of Mark Borja, a high school student who does—well, typical high schooler things such as going to school, cramming assignments, making sense of complex friendships, and falling in love for the very first time.

Things seem ordinary until a fateful meeting triggers a chain of events that upends Mark’s life, forcing him to untangle a web of mysteries including disappearances and confounding memories before it’s too late. 

I would love to try my hand at this mini game where players must make tuhog-tuhog
the fish balls.

As Mark goes through his adventures, themes tackling love, loss, and friendship will be explored. Along the way, players must accomplish assignments, establish relationships, and play mini games.

A warm reception

Since the teaser was released, Until Then has found itself at the receiving end of glowing reviews. Games and film critic Leo Faierman of the popular entertainment news site Screen Rant wrote: “Regardless, both the visual style and smartphone gameplay are absolute winners within the first hour, as well as the setting of the Philippines, a decided rarity in the medium.”

Brand manager of Modus Games Ellen Plummer said in a post on Playstation Blog that the game “has the potential to stand among the classics in the narrative adventure genre.” She also praised the game’s visuals, which she described as “captivating,” and the story as “gripping.”

An orange plastic road barrier—yes, we’re definitely somewhere in Metro Manila.

Tomas Franzese, who reviews video games on Digital Trends, described Until Then as “the kind of slice-of-life game I didn’t know I needed,” and even included it on his list of six “outstanding game demos you need to try during Steam Next Fest.” The said event allows game developers to share demos of their upcoming games to get feedback and hype up players for lesser-known games. 

Tom Wilson of Game Crater called Until Then a “breathtaking narrative adventure.” He further wrote: “Fortunately, not only does Until Then absolutely live up to the hype, but its compelling narrative, gorgeous art style, and breathtaking world have me so completely engrossed that I cannot wait for the game’s full release.”

The game’s main protagonist is Mark Borja, your typical high schooler worrying about typical high school things like procrastinating and falling in love for the first time.

Another popular video game database and review site, Hardcore Gamer, heaped praises upon the game as well, with Thomas Kent writing: “Until Then offers players a unique blend of immersive gameplay, stunning pixel graphics and a compelling narrative that explores the intricacies of teenage life. From interactive objects to glitching worlds, the game manages to weave together a heartfelt story that’s both bittersweet and emotionally impactful.”

Critics praised Until Then‘s narrative, with one describing it as “both bittersweet and emotionally impactful.”

Reading the reviews makes me look forward to playing the demo and the full game once it’s out. Hats off to the talented team at Polychroma Games for what can only be described as a love letter to Pinoy culture in video game form.

Until Then is set to be released this 2024. There is now a free playable demo available on Steam from Feb. 5 to 12. The game will be available on PC and PS5.

Associate Editor

The new lifestyle.