TIME LOADER REVIEW: TIME TRAVE THERAPY

Time Loader, a new puzzle platformer from Flazm Games, is about a small time-travelling robot. This game proudly displays the “arty” label and tries to use every component to tell an interesting story. The story is not bad, but it doesn’t go anywhere. For a while, arty games have been a hot topic in indie circles. When a craze continues for too long, cracks start to show. A message is the goal of good art. The message may be a moral or deeper theme that is only revealed at the end. It’s easy to get lost in the message.

Time Loader has a lot of fun story beats that are well executed. However, the message is a bit confusing. It seemed that the moral of the game would be “You can’t change your past, so move forward.” This did happen, but it was not satisfying. Time Loader is an extremely difficult game to master. It has a beautiful look, great soundtrack, and no failures in solving puzzles. It ends up being very mediocre, even though I don’t know what it is trying to do.

STORY – DON’T ENGAGE THRUSTERS

The Time Loader story is about Adam Wright, a young boy who was left paralysed after falling from his treehouse when he was a child. He is haunted by the memories of that fateful day and builds a small robot (A.I.) out of various parts to go back to and stop what has ruined his life. A.I. is able to return to the past. A.I. must solve puzzles and navigate his boyhood home to try and change the future.

Because of the importance it plays in the game, I won’t go into detail about the story. Everything has been created around this story-heavy experience. The audio and visuals are great at setting a tone but the gameplay makes you feel small in a big house. It lacks engagement. Time Loader can be very effective at inducing curiosity. Engagement is much more powerful.

This is not to say that there aren’t some good story beats. While there are some good moments, the main problem is the lack of focus. The story centers around Adam and the horrible accident that occurred to him and his family. However, I felt no connection to him at the end. This is because you interact only with Adam in the tutorial throughout the story. You learn everything else about Adam through audio logs, random diary entries and A.I. Commenting on the events. Our main motivation to complete the game and achieve the best ending is to save Adam. It’s hard to care about him when I don’t even know him.

Adam could have checked in more often, sharing his personality through dialogues, and I would have felt connected to him. A.I. could have shown why in some scenes. The story would have been more compelling if there were cutscenes that showed why A.I. Unfortunately, Adam is pushed to the sidelines of his story. Adam becomes a plot device and a motivator for A.I. who should have been the central point of the story. Because I control them, the character I am controlling already has my investment. The story is insubstantial when Adam is the focal point.

A.I. Driving up a ramp through a darkened room

GAMEPLAY- BIG JUMPS TO GET A LITTLE TOY

Time Loader is best described as a puzzle platformer. Environment puzzles are solved by jumping on and off of household appliances, throwing small objects and collecting tools. However, a lot of the puzzles can be solved using contextual button presses. This is fine if you are using a carjack to tilt a shelf to reach higher ledges, or electrifying a magnet for pulling a toy car. It becomes a problem when the puzzle is “drive to a place and press E”. That’s not a puzzle.

The most exciting part of Time Loader is the gameplay. The platforming and puzzles are both fun, despite the fact that they require context-dependent button pressing. The robot trying to tell you how you do something is a bit less entertaining after you have demonstrated that you can do it. Or, it may just give you the solution to a problem. This is only one symptom of a larger problem.

It becomes clear that the gameplay is a vehicle for the story and the story isn’t nearly as compelling as the gameplay. One moment that stands out is when Adam has to lock Adam’s cat inside the shed. We are given a short video that shows how it was locked in, after solving various puzzles and platforming challenges. A cut-scene shouldn’t replace gameplay and Time Loader does that far too often.

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