The art of time manipulation in video games can easily be screwed up if the game leans on it too much or not enough. There’s a balance in the mechanic and the way it evolves over the course of the adventure. Well, developer Urnique takes on the challenge with their puzzle-adventure Timelie. What’s interesting here is that they’ve created a mystery that begs to be uncovered without the use of dialogue.
Timelie’s core features revolve around a young girl and a cat. Only one character can be controlled at a time, but with the use of time manipulation, it’s possible to strategize when to switch to another character to execute their turn. Reading that may sound confusing, but in execution, it works quite well. Players use the Q and E buttons on the keyboard to reverse and forward through time, respectively. However, each level has a corresponding time bar associated with it at the bottom of the screen that shows where you are in relation to the time that you have left.
What this allows players to do is learn through trial and error, without the hindrance of starting a level over if they fail. Still, during my playthrough, there were some precise time windows that I pulled off to get past enemies. I’m sure that I was doing this the wrong way through, which actually made the game more interesting as you can take on puzzles in ways not intended. The developer does provide hints to their puzzles as well, which is there for those who need it.
The story of the cat and the girl unfolds across the levels but isn’t told through cutscenes or dialogue. You’re left in the dark about most of their situation, with the only goal being to move forward. However, there’s enough cloudy area that makes the mystery of their situation endearing enough to want to see play out. The girl is clearly troubled by something and the cat, well, I’m not so sure about the cat right now, but it’s pretty cute.
Controlling the time mechanics takes a little getting used to, but it’s possible to get the hang of it rather quickly, considering you can’t really die in the game. Throughout the demo that I played, puzzle layout required me to utilize a growing list of abilities, but it’s going to be the late-game puzzles that determine if players will stick around or not. I hope that they are a balanced blend of abilities that you’ve learned in previous levels along with new ones that push you to learn additional ways to utilize the time manipulation mechanic.
One thing I didn’t like is how you are forced to watch the replay of the level after you complete it. This portion can’t be skipped and was only interesting one or two times. Also, I couldn’t get the game to work with a controller, so supporting a control with button mapping would make the experience a little more comfortable. Still, the keyboard controls worked well.
Timelie doesn’t rely on heavy story elements to get the player invested in its themes. Instead, it uses the power of a mysterious girl and cat duo to rope players into discovering more of this strange world. From what I’ve played, the time manipulation abilities go hand in hand with the puzzle elements to form a delicate balance between the two. However, I’m interested to see how the developers maintain that balance in the later levels.
Timelie is coming to PC-via Steam on May 21.
UPDATE: The developer informed us that the watch replay feature after levels can be skipped in the final version.
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