Time Well Spent
Time manipulation is a fascinating game mechanic that feels like it’s been severely under-used in this medium. Between Prince Of Persia and Braid, very few games come close to achieving this without feeling like a gimmick. Timelie then is a game that breaks the conventional mold, delivering a stealthy puzzle game revolving predominantly around the act of rewinding time.
Split across 5 chapters and with a run-time of between 3-6 hours, Timelie weaves in a simple narrative about a girl and a strange cat trying to escape from murderous robots with an isometric puzzler. Most of the game revolves around point and click mechanics, with a wonderful musical score and some seriously challenging puzzles to get your head around.
The narrative itself serves its purpose, driving the game forward through the various different realms while adding enough incentive to care about these characters as you progress through the different levels. All of this builds up to a dramatic couple of chapters at the end that test everything you’ve learned up until that point and demand pinpoint accuracy to navigate through.
While sounding quite complicated on paper, the execution is anything but. A brief prologue helps get accustomed to the controls, with the mouse used to move your character around the grid. You can zoom in and out too, although personally I found it easier to keep everything zoomed out to keep an eye on surroundings and those murderous robots.
A and D on the keyboard control the flow of time while S (or clicking at your character’s feet) keeps you glued to that particular spot. Tab switches characters (important later on in the game) while each level finishes with a play-through of events to show how well you’ve done. A timeline at the bottom of the screen helps show the series of events transpiring and the whole UI feels very clean and easy to navigate. Taking cues from media players like Netflix and YouTube, Timelie remains as close to the simplicity of this as possible to prevent the game obfuscating its controls.
The aforementioned white orbs you collect can be used to repair bridges that aid in your quest, with an added layer of strategy late on through the act of destroying enemies. Each of the five chapters brings something new to the table, including strange purple orbs, while the ability to play as a mysterious cat adds yet another layer of strategy to the game. This cat is a lot more nimble to control and comes with its own perks, being able to hide in vents and attract enemies with an echoing meow.
Most of the game sees you navigate across the various grids, pushing levers and evading enemies to make it through to the next realm. It’s a pretty simple concept and eerie blue lights from enemies help to give an indication as to their line of sight. If these robots spot you however, it’s essentially game over given how frighteningly quick these move but that’s where the time rewinding comes into play.
The time manipulation itself is excellent and executed flawlessly throughout Timelie. Some of the later levels even ramp up the tension further by dissolving portions of the level and turning the entire concept into a race against the clock to escape impending doom.
On that same note though, the jump in difficulty between Chapters 3 and 4 is definitely worth bearing in mind and some the puzzles here are incredibly difficult. While there’s always been a slight margin for error in the previous chapters, here the game is absolutely relentless and you’ll need to pull out all the stops to succeed. This is especially evident given Chapter 5 is actually a lot easier than most of the levels on offer.
It also doesn’t help that certain mechanics, including cat meows being heard through glass partitions and chasms, aren’t made clear to the player. These are eventually figured out through trial and error but there’s around 4 or 5 puzzles that are incredibly difficult and made even more challenging because of this.
The music in this game is excellent though and the soundtrack in general really helps bring you into this world. As a side note, it would have been nice if each of the tracks were looped with a faded intro and outro. While not a deal breaker, those levels you remain stuck on for a while will see the music repeat ad infinitum. The end of each track has a pretty noticeable few seconds of silence before picking back up again. With some faded ambience bridging this together it may not be so jarring but to be honest, this is a minor point in what’s otherwise a really well presented game overall.
Timelie is a complex, stealth-driven puzzle game that doesn’t just use its time mechanics as a gimmick, it integrates this into the core of its gameplay. This works incredibly well to produce a stealth puzzler unlike many others out there, with a few nice surprises and an ambiguous ending that’s sure to get fans asking the developers for a sequel. With some wonderful presentation overall and a charming story to boot, Timelie is well worth playing and a game you should definitely spend some time with.
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