Until Then – PS5 Review

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Until Then is a single-player visual novel narrative game from developer Polychroma Games. The game is set in a fictional version of the Philippines. Though I don’t live in the Philippines, I found myself deeply immersed in its local culture and learned a lot about its people, while also experiencing a heartfelt narrative that truly resonates.

Until Then? Its around 5 minutes and 51 seconds

After incredibly positive demo reception, Until Then was released on PS5 and PC on June 25th, 2024. The game is a difficult one to review due to its narrative nature, but i’ll do my best to not reveal anything big. There will be some light narrative spoilers.


Until Then is a visual novel with minimal interactivity, meaning the best you’ll get in ways of gameplay is the x button and occasionally a few mini-games. Occasionally you’ll have the option to browse, like, share, and comment on social media posts.  The few moments you have to browse Mark’s phone and messages offer a deeper insight into the characters and world.

Theres something all too familiar when using the internet. The phone UI, the way characters type and delete messages, and just scrolling away through the tragic news. The mini-games are often the worst parts of the game though, with some barely working and lacking any sort of direction on what you need to be doing.

an in game social media post quoting steve jobs 'all i ask is that today you do the best work of your entire life'

There’s a particularly terrible rhythm game, which speeds up and slows down seemingly at random points, and occasionally just pauses. This does not feel remotely responsive or in time at all. Inputs won’t register and it’s extremely buggy. You need to get a score of 100 on this rhythm game for the platinum trophy. One rhythm game is an extremely large and impactful part of the story, and is soured by these issues.

a rhythm minigame
My voice must be terrible…

Right…that’s the bad part out of the way


Talking about the negative aspects pained me, like telling your puppy off for misbehaving. Until Then’s closing few hours had me in tears. That’s it, that’s all you need to know, review over. But seriously the story for the game is incredibly well written, with likable characters that I care and root for.

The only downside to this is that a lot of time is spent focusing on individual scenes with characters and world-building rather than advancing the story of the ruling, a seemingly supernatural event, causing unreliable memories, natural disasters, and dissapearences. The ruling plays out in the background. To some, this can make the game feel rather slow-paced. For me, the slow pace is all worth it for the well-written characters and payoff.

two characters sat in front of a musical keyboard in a school classroom
Unmatched atmosphere

Something players should understand early is that this is not a supernatural story where you are the central protagonist like life is strange. You are Mark Borja, a regular teenager navigating a turbulent world. The events of the ruling happen to not just you, but those around you. I went into the game expecting life is strange in the Philippines, and found myself pleasantly superised with the direction the game took.

Mark is a typical high school slacker with a seemingly good heart (even though twice throughout the game he ditches characters who invite him to places, and it’s not brought up.) Along the way, you’ll meet a loveable cast of characters, all of which are written extremely realistically as teenagers. It’s not all seriousness, the game is hilarious. Throughout my time I audibly laughed on multiple occasions through witty dialogue, and Mark’s dumb dad jokes.

All in all, the story for Until Then had me hooked from start to finish, but not for the reasons I was expecting. It tells many deeply personal stories that I found came to the forefront far more than the seemingly supernatural events that intrigued me in the first place, and thats a good thing.

Bugs And Issues

Outside of some Mini-Games riddled with bugs and issues. There are not many more problems. Occasionally throughout the game, I noticed a few translation issues here and there, but those were infrequent and barely noticeable.

Graphics and audio

Until Then looks beautiful. It’s a gorgeous 2D art style with color that pop and character designs that, despite being pixel art, all have distinctive features and details.

Backgrounds in particular are designed with spectacular attention to detail. Even in scenes where you’re only in an area for a few minutes. I escpecially loved the overly-animated closeups, that were mostly used for comedic effect. I know, it’s cheesy to say this, but there were many times when I would put my controller down and enjoy the vibes of an area and Its ambiance. Unique NPCs passing by while the soothing, relaxed soundtrack played.

Emotions are effectively brought out through the style too, like how a bright, busling area filled with chatter and colour, contrasts  Mark’s empty, quiet home due to his overseas worker parents. The home is dimly lit, and especially shows off the developers talent for environmental storytelling.

a character close up saying 'a master of stunts, i see' with a smug look
(Mark totally did a triple backflip in this scene)

Loitering around areas did make me run into a few awkwardly looping audio issues where a song would just stop and restart, rather than flow. The same could happen during gameplay seconds, there would very obviously be music transitions that sounded iffy. None of this was enough to take me out of the experience though, it’s just something of note.


Until then was significantly longer than I had initially anticipated. My first playthrough took me just over 9 hours.

the player character in a clothes store
Lets go shopping!

Once you beat the game, it might be worth hitting that new game button…

Final thoughts

Until Then is stunning. During my time at Thumb Culture, I’ve given away a few platinum awards here and there and enjoyed many of the games I’ve played. Until Then isn’t just my game of the year (so far) it’s up there with my favorite games of all time.

The jaw-dropping artstyle alongside the witty dialogue and emotional beats all combine to make a visual novel that is In my opinion, a masterpiece, and a true labor of love. Some mini-games slightly sour the experience, but winning is not necessary to progress the story. And that story is too good to care. This game is 100% worth your time and money. Give it a go…or three.

For these reasons, I am awarding Until Then the Thumb Culture Platinum Award.

Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.

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