No Time To Explain seeks to join the indie lineage that has shown us – through wit, ingenuity and by taking the oldest concepts in gaming and giving them new twists – that the platformer ain’t dead. Is it any good? Allow me to explain.
No Time to Explain looks to follow in the footsteps of games like Braid with its clever time-bending mechanics, or VVVVVV where simple tweaks to a well known formula turn things upside down. Developers tinybuildGames have thrown a grab bag of twists and tricks into their barmy platformer. The problem is, it’s a distinctly mixed bag they threw. What we end up with is a game that has the tropes of the platform genre – spikes to be avoided, pads that send us hurtling across the level and beams of light that carry us along in directions we might not wish to go – combined with a weapon that doubles as a jet-pack, copious hat collection and some truly awful boss battles.
The biggest and most glaring problem with No Time is that while the jetpack-cum-laser sounds awesome on paper, in practice it’s not actually that fun to use. It’s really finicky – shooting at the ground has no effect unless you jump in tandem with it and trying to shoot while flying is impossible. The result is that some of the puzzles you are required to navigate become a real chore because you never truly feel in control of your character.
One early level in particular annoys. It asks that you use the jet pack and a small run-up to navigate your way through what basically amounts to a staircase of spikes. I spent around ten minutes attempting this, before I was about ready to give up on the game altogether. At this point I discovered that the whole puzzle was simply a distraction and that you could fly over the top of the level, collect a hat and avoid those nasty spikes.
If this was a way of the game training me to think outside the box – to try out the unexpected – then fair enough. But it was an isolated incident, that denied me of the warm fuzzy feeling of successfully navigating the obstacle. It’s the developer pulling the rug from under the player for no real reason.
Boss battles in the game are just as poorly executed – fighting a giant crab, or a shark who happily munches away on a future version of yourself (don’t ask) should be exciting set-pieces. But for these sections you’re essentially gifted with infinite lives, meaning you can just stand still in the middle of the level, shooting until the boss dies.
No Time wants to be the quirky indie game with clever mechanics and many many hats. It takes a few neat ideas in time travel and inertia, but ultimately misuses them. What we end up with is a platformer where an act as simple as moving across the level becomes a major source of frustration.
No Time to Explain, from tinyBuildGames, is available now for PC (reviewed). Mac, Linux and iOS releases are to follow.