The Pedestrian Review – Follow the Signs
The Pedestrian, developer Skookum Arts' debut game, is a clever, creative puzzle-platformer that’ll put your head to the test.
From the first time I saw The Pedestrian during PlayStation’s State of Play last August, I was intrigued. I loved the art style and the puzzle platforming mechanics looked really cool. Somehow I missed that it launched on PC a year ago and had a successful Kickstarter campaign. That said, developer Skookum Arts not only provides a great debut with The Pedestrian, but they also bring us a superb puzzle-platformer that never overstays its welcome. Its challenging, clever mechanics keep you thinking and guessing until you reach the credits.
The Pedestrian is a 2.5D platformer where you play as a simple male or female character. One of my favorites parts of the game is its art style. It’s a blend of hand-drawn puzzles with real worlds backdrops behind you. Through the game’s four to six-hour campaign, you complete a series of puzzles broken up into seven different locations. Each area is diverse, with one area being a warehouse and another being the subway. Throughout each puzzle, your character navigates through street signs and whiteboards. While you’d think the art style and visuals like this could get old quickly, Skookum Arts adds a ton of variety with each section you complete. What complements the visuals well is its laid-back, atmospheric soundtrack. It never detracts or pulls you out of the game.
It’s a very visually-driven game, which doesn’t include any dialogue or voiceovers. Sure, I can see a scenario where a voiceover guides you along, but it would become distracting in the long run. This decision from Skookum Arts puts the puzzle-solving at the forefront. Some might argue the game doesn’t have a story. Without spoiling the ending, there’s an argument to be made that it has a subtle story that reveals itself by the final chapter. Like its puzzles, the story is pieced together incrementally over time.
The most important, if not the most impressive, part of the game is its puzzle platforming. You start out by navigating through a whiteboard as you complete the tutorial. This section alone shows the game’s charm, with prompts coming up on retro TV screens. It starts out easy, with the main controls being on the X, O, and triangle buttons. In order to complete each puzzle, you need to match up the correct nodes, which lets you platform your way across the different signs and whiteboards. Of course, sometimes the puzzles are spread apart, so you might need to flip signs around to find the correct path through the puzzle. Traversing each platform requires going through various doors and ladders.
Completing each puzzle requires patience and careful planning. At the same time, trial and error will help you figure out how to complete each puzzle. Whenever your character is in one sign and you move a node around, the character will flash red and you start at the beginning area again. It can be frustrating but it’s essential to learning how to improve at solving each puzzle. One minor feature that’s missing is the ability to zoom in on environments. All the areas are zoomed out and it can be hard to see where your character is. Over time, puzzles can get frustrating to complete. Sadly, the game doesn’t provide any hints. Though not strictly necessary, a feature like this would be a nice inclusion, especially for those who aren’t as skilled at puzzle games.
It’s a unique and interesting way to approach a puzzle game. What makes it great is how simple it is to grasp the puzzle system. It’s a way of puzzle-solving I haven’t seen many games attempt. There’s a sense of accomplishment when you correctly solve an area. However, the difficulty curve ramps up the further along you get.
While the puzzle mechanics start off easy, things get more complex as you progress. Most levels in The Pedestrian require you to flip switches, find keys, and move the different street signs around. The inclusion of these different pieces are introduced to you in a hub, a central location where you go from level to level. Each hub has several doorways that are dedicated to one type of puzzle piece, and they all have at least four pieces to collect. You can find them in any order you want, but they’re all essential to making it to the next area.
In addition to several types of puzzle pieces you find, The Pedestrian gradually introduces new mechanics that make each puzzle trickier to complete. One section of the game introduces platforms with doors cut out. Traversing these puzzles requires your character to be on the platform with the door as you move it in front of another platform. If you place it in the wrong spot, you’ll see your character fall and be killed by a laser, sending you back to the start. This is one of my favorite mechanics because it adds another way to traverse from one sign to the next. Plus, I love how it adds another layer of complexity.
Another section introduces areas that need electricity to open up. In these puzzles, you’ll have to route power to the appropriate outlet, followed by moving the platform near an electrical plug. Doing it correctly opens up a new area of the puzzle that was closed off before. This introduces another mechanic of not being able to move platforms around as much as you’re used to. In most levels, you can move platforms around as much as you like. However, some levels restrict you from doing that. One example is a real-world area with bricks that block certain platforms. The visuals are already stunning to look at and having the real-world environment around you influence progression is a cool feature.
The Pedestrian looks even more stunning on PlayStation 5. It also uses the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback very well. With each item you pick up, step you take, and trampoline bounced on, you feel the controller’s vibration. It further adds to your immersion in the game. Sadly, it doesn’t utilize the controller’s touchpad. It’s a missed opportunity and they could’ve possibly used the touchpad to let you zoom out to see your overall progression.
The Pedestrian is a great, charming, and complex puzzle game. Its art style is stunning, unique, and stands out from other puzzle games. The various puzzles are fun to complete but ramp up in difficulty over time. What adds to its complexity is the mechanics added throughout the four-to-six-hour adventure. That being said, it’s great to play if you’re looking for something relaxing to play. It’s a visually driven game with no voiceovers guiding you in a certain direction. It also doesn’t have a traditional story.
However, if you look hard enough, there are some clues that can build a larger picture. As a PlayStation 5 title, it uses the console’s features well, especially the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback. While it may not be for everyone, The Pedestrian is worth a shot. It stands out from the crowd in so many ways, leaving a positive impact on me in the end.