Do you find road signs exciting? Have you ever casually sat there, staring at one of the many warning and informative metal plaques, thinking about what it would be like if you were the mini simplistic character unable to leave the boundaries of your flat prison? If so, The Pedestrian is for you – a puzzle game which requires you to literally ‘think outside of the box’ and solve a number of tricky sign-jumping puzzles in order to experience more than being the sign of a toilet (I presume this is what you are based upon your visual design).
The Pedestrian was created by Skookum Arts, a small development team from Ohio. The three Artist, Programmer and Designers are friends, who have been working on the game since 2013 when it began as a small side-project to help them learn more about game development, with the fourth member providing the audio. The excitement around the game led the team to turn it into a full game, showcasing it at various conventions and then submitting it to Kickstarter – where it gained 50% more than their target amount. This allowed the game to release on PC in January last year, but today I’m playing the PS5 version which released a few days ago.
I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this game for a long time, ever since I saw Tom, from the Yogscast, play it last year – the whole visual design and concept behind the puzzles had me excited to experience it for myself. So, as the game is now out on both the PS4 and PS5 (Cross-buy), lets jump straight in and take a look at just how creative this game actually is…
There is no story within The Pedestrian, at least none which I could pick up on. However, for a game like this, that isn’t a problem as the core focus lies within the puzzles and mechanics rather than trying to immerse you within a fleshed-out narrative. The concept is easy enough to pick up on though, you play the part of a male or female restroom humanoid character, a flat, stationary being who lives for one reason – to tell people which toilet they should enter to do their business. But, you’ve had enough of this, you want to leave your position and go on an journey – a rather unique and intuitive adventure.
Once our painted protagonist comes to life, it’s time to traverse through a living world (which is beautifully designed) as you jump from sign to sign via links and connections you create whilst stepping back and take a look at the puzzle placed before you. In a way, stepping back to look at the surroundings, and disconnecting your control over your new little friend, is almost like playing a VR game (like Ghost Giant), where you are an invisible being overlooking the situation and interacting with it in order to create a path forward for the small sign-boy (or girl).
On a side note – The Pedestrian would actually make a fantastic VR game, having you reach out and make the connections with your hands whilst controlling the character with the controller’s face buttons! This has to happen.
As you get further into the 4-6 hours game, the puzzles become much harder, some require you to find various objects to proceed, and the very last stage will melt your brain – seriously. I’m not going to talk about that stage, and I advise you not to look up any info on it at all, but know this – it’s very creative and will cause even the mightiest of puzzle masters to scratch their head in confusion!
Enough of the crypticness – what is The Pedestrian and how do you actually play it?? As mentioned above, this is a puzzle game in which you have to manipulate the world (signs) in order to help your little toilet sign person move onwards in their great adventure. You do this by stepping back, to look at the puzzle as a whole, and then moving the various signs around on the screen. Once you’ve done that, you link up doors and ladders so that when you return to playing as the little guy, you can now walk through the doors or climb ladders to appear within the newly linked signs.
Initially, this is quite simple, you walk in a door, get a key, open a door, climb a ladder, then move on to the next set of signs in a new part of the beautifully 3D rendered environment. Then the developers start to point and laugh at you, introducing new mechanics and requirements which’ll make you cower in the corner and cry for a little while. You’ll have to overlap signs, link them together then move them about as their position breaks the links, pause the game by stepping back at the right time in order to avoid jumping into lasers whilst you disable them, use items from other places to open new exits, and freeze signs.
Freezing signs is where I began to have an issue with the game (as in, I found it hard). Normally, if you make a few connections and then explore, once you break any connection which leads to a paradox (meaning you couldn’t be there without that connection) the level will essentially reset and you’ll be back at the start and all items will be in their normal positions. But, if you’ve frozen a sign in time (green), breaking the connection to that room will not revert its contents (including you if you’re stood in it). So, this new mechanic means you have to think about things more carefully and pre-plan pretty much everything you need to do.
Did I mention this game is incredibly clever? Well, it is.
The Pedestrian is a beautiful game, not only because of the crystal clear and super sharp visuals for each of the signs on the Playstation 5, but the fully-rendered 3D backgrounds. Every time you complete a puzzle and proceed to the next set, or simply move to a new area to grab an item for the one you’re currently in, the game seamlessly transitions you to a new backdrop. These include solving puzzles on a grate within a factory as the conveyors work behind you, jumping through signs outside a university with trees and statues all around, and making your way down seedy back alleyways of the city.
Puzzle games are always fun to play, some developers keep things nice and simple, such as Word Search by POWGI, some present the puzzle as a first-person experience, like Relicta, but The Pedestrian combines the two with a clean 2D platform for the puzzles and a fantastic 3D background which wouldn’t be amiss in a 3D adventure game. But, how does a recently animated character on a sign manage to travel to all of these places, I hear you cry? Simple – by train/underground. As our protagonist isn’t real (don’t tell them I said that), they don’t need a ticket, or a mask (wear a mask), he simply hops into the driver’s carriage and solves a simple puzzle which starts the train and moves him around the city. I imagine this may disguise loading times on last-gen consoles, whilst offering yet another beautifully animated transition, but it’s also present on the PS5.
Hidden throughout the game are various secret puzzles. I’m a puzzle expert, as everyone knows, so I’m happy to say that I found the grand total of zero… Yes, I didn’t find any of the secrets within the game, I only know they exist because I saw a site mention them as I looked for help with the final puzzle (I’m good, but I’m not that good). For those looking to grab the trophies (no platinum, I’m afraid), you only have to complete all of the levels naturally – the secrets aren’t required. But, for those looking to customise your character, completing these secret puzzles will grant you a new hat to wear.
For review, we were kindly provided with a review code for the PlayStation 5 version. For some reason, the code only gave us the PS5 edition and not the PS4 as well, so we can’t compare the two versions (review code for a game with two versions would normally unlock both). However, should you buy the game (and you should), you’ll get both versions in your library to download, allowing you to play the PS4 or PS5 editions depending on if you’ve managed to find an elusive console yet.
So, what does the PS5 enhance in The Pedestrian? First of all, I don’t have resolution numbers but it does look like it’s running at a native 4K (or very near to it) and, thanks to a hidden menu which shouldn’t be in the game, we know it’s running at 30fps (not sure why it’s not 60, but a game like this doesn’t ‘need’ 60fps). Within this setting, we also saw that there are specific configurations for the Depth of Field whilst in the 4k mode over the 1080p mode – but these could also be on the PS4 Pro or even disabled like the ‘Photo Mode’ is (I wish it had a photo mode!)
But, the one thing I can 100% guarantee is different from the PS4 version is the DualSense controller support. There is no use of the Adaptive Triggers, as the game doesn’t make use of L2 and R2, but it does use the haptic feedback. It’s very subtle, but just like in Control: Ultimate Edition, you can literally feel every footstep as you run around.
Haptics aren’t the same as a simple rumble, which we’ve had for a long time, it’s small and precise vibrations which allows you to feel what you’re seeing in a more immersive way. As you pull around objects, jump about, or simply run from one sign to another, you’ll feel it beautifully in your hands.
The game also utilises the controller speaker along with the Haptics to enhance the experience – it’s hard to describe, but it’s an experience you won’t have on any other platform.
Okay, by now you should have realised how much I love the visuals within The Pedestrian. From the 2D puzzles to the 3D backgrounds, the whole experience was a delight to play through casually, thanks to there being no time limits or pressure to rush through it. I’m going to pick up the PS4 version at some point so that I can experience the entire adventure once more (and earn a new set of trophies).
In terms of the sound, the game relies on two things – ambient background sounds and wonderfully composed music. Whilst you’re underground, working through the sewers, you’ll hear the dripping of water, your footsteps and jumping echoing in the distance, and random sounds which you’d expect if you were down there with your flat friend. Then, as you escape and venture into more elaborate settings, the music kicks in and offers a nice relaxing and calm soundtrack to simply sit back and take your time trying to work out the puzzles to.
On the PS5, everything worked as intended – I had no crashing, no framerate drops, no trophies which didn’t unlock, and no frustrations with the various control and gameplay mechanics – it’s a very polished and well-designed game which far exceeded my expectations I had prior to playing it a few days ago.
If you’re in the mood to play a unique puzzle game with an interesting concept and beautiful visuals, The Pedestrian is for you. Although the game gets trickier and more complex the further you get, you never feel like it’s an impossible puzzle; you can solve everything if you take your time and plan ahead – making this accessible to people of all ages and skill levels. The main PS5 upgrade has to be the immersive haptic feedback in the controller, but the sharp, clean, and colourful visuals also help define just how polished and special this game truly is.
The only negative I can think of is that I was left wanting more, I could happily spend many more hours lost within this world as I try to escape.
- - Beautiful visuals both in terms of the gameplay and the world around you
- - Great use of the DualSense's Haptic Feedback and controller speaker
- - The music is very relaxing and helps you casually think of the solutions
- - The puzzles get harder but never impossible, creatively expanding on the core puzzle to create unique situations
- - You get both the PS4 and PS5 editions in one package
- - No 60fps mode (although this game doesn't really need it)
- - I wish there were more puzzles. 4-6 hours is great for a puzzle game, but I want more! I don't want to stop playing this game.
- - May be an issue for some people - there's no platinum trophy, only two sets of 100% (for both platforms)
- - Not a negative but, we NEED a VR version/mode