Until Then Review

Until Then

The melancholy and uncertainty of your teenage years is an almost universal experience, whether you’re American, Japanese, or Filipino, there’s something to find in stories about youth that resonates. Especially as technology and society force us to grow up faster and faster.

Until Then follows the story of Mark, a young man in the city of Liamson in the Philippines in an alternative version of 2014. He’s a slacker by nature and often puts off work until the very last minute because he simply forgot to do it. Instead he gets sidetracked by his two passions: video games, and the piano.

Until Then

However after hanging out with the class president Louise, a feeling begins to creep up on Mark, some kind of deja vu or confabulation. When two new transfer students join the class, that feeling only grows. Can he solve the mystery while holding onto what’s precious to him?

Until Then
Developer: Polychroma Games
Publisher: Maximum Entertainment
Platforms: Windows PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5
Release Date: June 25, 2024
Players: 1
Price: $19.99

Attention: While I’ll try to avoid spoilers they’re necessary in some places to illustrate my point.

Until Then

Until Then is a visual novel (VN) with some interactive mini-games and exploration. It has more in common with Telltale style adventure games than your typical VN in that regard. An emphasis is placed on immersion and interactivity which sets it apart from most VNs.

The game opens with a starts off with a cute way of showcasing this, hitting the Start button causes Mark’s alarm to ring, so you have to keep hitting it until he actually wakes up. These cute bits of immersion continue in almost every aspect, whether it’s manually pulling thumbtacks off a corkboard, buttoning your shirt, or even actually slapping your keyboard to type back a response to Mark’s friends (this last one gets a little tedious though).

Until Then

It’s these little moments of daily life that makes the game’s poetic and introspective moments all the more real. Until Then slowly eases players into the mystery and themes presented in the game in a way that maximizes the emotional impact.

When names and phrases are mentioned which begin evoking a response from Mark, we see colors get a bit off and blurry while the scenery distorts. At first it’s kind of mystical and weird, but as the game goes on it becomes haunting.

Until Then

We make the inference that these memory issues and hallucinations have to do with “The Ruling”, an event where the world was beset by dozens of natural disasters at once. The Philippines is considered to have gotten off lightly, experiencing two major earthquakes and a hurricane. But The Ruling underscores the narrative, providing a supernatural/sci-fi twist that sets the stage for the game’s events.

In fact The Ruling is arguably the game’s core mystery, the reasons for it and its aftershocks are still affecting Mark in his friends to this day. Although they may not realize it.

Until Then

The music is similarly fantastic and I’m actually hoping the soundtrack will be available on Steam when the game launches. Particularly the piano melodies from when Mark or his mother are playing.

When it comes to the story, there’s the right mixture of intrigue and emotional introspection to keep me interested. Not only am I interested in the mystery of The Ruling and what exactly is creating this shared sense of deja vu among some of the students, but I’m also invested in Mark and his friends on a personal level. It’s elaborated later (I promised no spoilers) but there’s clearly some heavy baggage with Mark’s piano playing and his relationship with his family.

Until Then

As the game goes on, Mark shows more of his inner thoughts with a particular quiet night at the end of chapter 2 that will probably hit close to home for a lot of players. Beneath his nonchalant slacker attitude, Mark is uncertain of the future and hides his insecurities. He stays up late because he’s distracted with a personal search for purpose that there’s no convenient answer to. It’s a sort of melancholy that doesn’t have an answer, and one I feel many of us have felt at times. When I finished chapter 2 I actually needed a few minutes to digest it, and things only continue to get more thought-provoking.

Comparisons to Ghibli are common, they’re contrived, and over-used. But in the case of Until Then they’re absolutely warranted. Until Then doesn’t have whimsical creatures and decoration. But Until Then reminds me of the studio’s more down-to-earth titles like Whispers of the Heart and When Marnie was There. I felt something sublime playing this game.

Until Then

The reason I feel the comparison is worth making, is that the writing is fantastic, it’s heart-wrenching, poetic, and the game’s use of symbolism throughout only makes it hurt deeper when you realize what it means. Until Then isn’t shy about exploring themes of trauma, grief, loss, and the existential dread that accompanies depression. How it feels to be left behind emotionally, when people you love succeed and in the deepest and most secret part of your heart you wish for their failure, only so that when they fall you’ll remain right beside them.

But you persist with your silent struggles, because you earnestly do wish for their happiness and peace of mind. A common theme in Until Then is how we tend to bottle up our trauma and self-immolate with our emotions, because we mistakenly believe that if we share it, we’ll be harming our friends, imposing on their peaceful lives. The connections we make as people, and how those connections can be the difference between living listlessly or succeeding, they’re at the heart of Until Then.

Until Then

There’s a lot I could nitpick about Until Then. The minigames are a bit weird or unresponsive depending on your control scheme. Heck, sometimes the game itself is unresponsive if you’re trying to play on mouse and keyboard but you have a controller plugged in. They’re worth mentioning, just for the thoroughness of the review, but frankly: I don’t care.

Until Then made me cry multiple times. Some lines hit me like a ton of bricks and buried me under the weight of their emotional significance. The game allows you to continue after the end and even expedites things a bit. After your first loop, you’re going to want to go back. Remember, “you can always begin again, you just have to find that spark”.

Until Then

Until Then was reviewed on Windows PC using a review copy provided by Maximum Entertainment. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Until Then is available now on Windows PC (via Steam) and PlayStation 5.

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The Verdict: 10

The Good

  • Fantastic music
  • Neat blend of 2D spritework and 3D
  • Fun characters you'll come to cherish
  • I loved the story, it made me feel things in such a strong way that games don't often do

The Bad

  • PC controls are unreliable
  • The typing to respond thing is immersive, but also gets old fast


A basement-dwelling ogre, Brandon's a fan of indie games and slice of life anime. Has too many games and not enough time.

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