“I wonder if my first breath was as soul-stirring to my mother as her last breath was to me.” – Lisa Goich-Andreadis
A Taste of the Past is a short but emotional side-scrolling narrative game about losing a loved one and reconnecting with one’s culture. It follows a young girl named Mei as she goes on an unconscious journey through the afterlife.
Developer: Sondering Studio
Released: 11th March 2022
A Taste of the Past boasts a moving narrative that follows Mei, a young Chinese-American student after her mother passes away. While sitting on a train she realises she has lost all of her mother’s recipes and upon falling asleep begins a journey through the carriages and encounters a number of her ancestors. She learns about them and their lives and her heritage but also about her relationship with her mother. Through this, Mei gains an appreciation for the different ways in which her mother demonstrated her love for her daughter. The story’s themes centre on love and loss but especially grief. It explores the process of grieving and all the difficult thoughts and feelings that go with it. It is an emotive tale with well-written dialogue that effectively describes what loss can feel like.
The gameplay is fairly simple and involves progressing through the train’s carriages and interacting with Mei’s late relatives. A Taste of the Past uses simple keyboard and mouse controls and requires minimal input as much of the game is spent reading text. There are a number of dialogue choices that add an element of replayability as it is not possible to select them all in one playthrough.
As well as the dialogue the game features a number of other interactions and mini-games such as hand washing, boiling noodles and chopping vegetables. They are mostly food-related and tie into Mei’s desire to rediscover her mother’s recipes and the memories they invoke. These interactions are quite straightforward and do not add any level of challenge to the game but give the experience an extra dimension and help connect the player to the narrative.
A Taste of the Past features a cute, cartoon-like art style that uses a limited colour palette of mostly blues and oranges, creating a contrast of warm and cool shades. The backgrounds are soft and textured whereas the characters have light outlines and stand out a bit more. The music is calming and relaxing with a gently melancholy undertone and primarily uses piano and plucked strings. Most of the game is devoid of voice acting, though two characters do speak in the latter half of the game. Unfortunately, one voice is somewhat robotic and lacks any sense of emotion, detracting from the overall impact of the game and especially the ending.
A Taste of the Past is a short game that will take around 30 minutes to complete, it is best enjoyed in a single sitting but offers some replayability in the form of extra dialogue options. It features a charming, cohesive and pleasantly stylised aesthetic and a subtly emotive soundtrack. Its stand-out attribute is its narrative which is heartfelt, genuine and highly moving. It mixes serious and more light-hearted themes such as grief and cooking to great effect and provides a unique and impactful experience. It is free and requires minimal time investment and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for something meaningful and stress-free.
Looking for more emotional experiences? You may also like these reviews:
10 Indie Games That Will Make You Cry! – A Walk With Yiayia – An Emotional Stroll Around the Neighbourhood – Before I Forget: Upcoming and Emotional Exploration Game