Walk this way.
Kickstarter backers have endured quite the wait for this road sign platformer to make it out into the wild, but with the new decade upon us, The Pedestrian has finally geared up for launching on Steam later this week. Ever wondered what the little bathroom sign guy gets up to when nobody’s around? Well, Skookum Arts have explored that Toy Story-like concept and I am pleased to report that it has made for some pretty good results.
The Pedestrian in many ways is your typical 2.5D puzzle-platformer but what sets it apart from the pack is that its adventure is contained exclusively within streets signs across a New York-inspired city. Essentially the goal of each stage is to reach the exit and this is often done by arranging and linking together neighboring sign snippets in a jigsaw-like fashion. You can only join sign fragments, however, if they share a corresponding component such as a ladder or a door and if they are made to flow into each other sequentially.
This simplistic concept is steadily layered upon throughout its roughly six-hour runtime, delivering plenty of mileage out of its novel concept. Trampolines, deadly laser traps, movable boxes, and many other curveballs such as overlapping sign fragments are tossed in to ramp up the challenge. With the difficulty increasing, trial and error is very much a reality in The Pedestrian and you’ll constantly find yourself unhooking signs you’ve linked together to find a new path to your goal. Fortunately, this never felt frustrating and I found it to strike a solid balance between being painstakingly difficult and too easy.
The jazzy arrangements of the main score melt blissfully into the background and sound like the kind of catchy jingles you would find yourself humming to in an elevator. What’s also notable is that there is no narrative or scripted dialogue present within the game and the focus is solely on the rather unique concept it has brought to the table.
The music helps to nail the presentation along with the visuals but I found on a few occasions that tracks would unexpectedly cut out, almost as though I was being punished in some cruel fashion for taking too long on a particular puzzle. While it did suck out much of the atmosphere this was only a minor annoyance and I am sure it’s something that the developers can smooth out further down the road with a patch.
The Pedestrian makes for quite a visual delight as the minimalist design of the road signs really pop against the backdrop of the city’s many detailed locales. As you navigate from puzzle to puzzle the camera weaves around spectacularly from one set piece to the next, shining a spotlight on areas such as a university, train station, and sewers. I was always eager to see what part of the city I would be transported to next and enjoyed how aspects both inside and outside of the signs impact one another. Signs would blow gently in the breeze, for example, and puzzles could be solved to open gates and clear obstructions out in the world that lay beyond my stick figure companion.
Something I wish would have been included is a chapter system to help break up things up and let you visit past puzzles. As of present there is no way to go back and access previous parts of the game which is a shame as this certainly would have helped enhanced the longevity of the experience. There’s also no additional save slots present so you aren’t able to go back without having to compromise on your existing progress.
Solving puzzles and exploring my way through the vast network of road signs within The Pedestrian’s fictionalised city I found to be a complete blast and an experience that I will likely revisit in future. I found that it managed to strike a solid balance with its difficulty and it constantly introduced new elements to help keep its novel concept from feeling one dimensional. I did encounter some minor issues with the audio and I wish chapters were present to revisit stages but this fortunately didn’t prevent it from being one of the first standout indies I have played in 2020.
[Reviewed on PC]