Developer: Urnique Studio
Release Date: May 20, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Urnique Studio
Puzzles and time-manipulation have been going strong in the indie community since the release of Braid. However, there haven’t been any real advancements in the genre or new elements that require additional skills. Instead of more of the same, developer Urnique gives us Timelie, which builds upon the time-manipulation feature for a challenging, yet approachable puzzle adventure.
Timelie has a story that evolves across the game’s puzzles. It’s not in your face, and much of it is left to the interpretation of the player. The grey areas might need an explanation for those looking to know more about these characters, but the narrative is merely another puzzle for the player to solve.
Players find themselves waking up as a girl who is gifted with the power to reverse and fast-forward through time. Across the game’s four primary levels, players will gain additional abilities that add to the complexity of the puzzle design. Additionally, a mysterious cat ends up joining your party as a playable character. The cat can act as a distraction to lure enemies off the path towards the objective.
The developer really understood there puzzle designs and the symbiotic relationship between these two characters. Many of the puzzles require players to skilfully control both for almost split-second actions to get to the goal. Luckily, the power to manipulate time allows for any additional fine-tuning, so when you do inevitably pull it off, it’s rather gratifying.
The ease of time manipulation makes mistakes not so frustrating since the game gives you as many chances as you want to try a specific move. The challenging portions of it appear when the developers give you a bit more freedom with how you approach the puzzles and where you utilize your abilities.
During levels, players can also obtain relics that show up after the level is complete. These give you a reason to return to the game to collect all 15 of them. However, there’s no way of knowing what you need to do in order to get them, but the ones I received happened when I seemed to get through the level like a master time bandit.
Puzzle design becomes more and more involved during each level. However, your understanding of how to manipulate enemies and what you are allowed to do with time also improves. It becomes easier to know the boundaries you can push with the levels and how to use each character to the best of their abilities.
There are four chapters with an additional fifth chapter unlocked at the end of the game. This is where the developers take off the gloves and do some genuinely excellent puzzle work. This last series of stages impressed the hell out of me and challenged everything I had learned thus far.
The graphics are simplistic in presentation, but each stage features its own set of environmental themes. Players can move through the stages using dots on the ground and pretty much stealth their way to the goal. I like the girl’s design as well, even though she doesn’t talk, the developer opted to use her body language to express her emotions.
One lacking feature was the general enemy designs since there is only one enemy encountered in the game. Even though they are used in fun ways during stages, I would have like to be challenged by maybe an enemy who could shoot or one that calls other enemies.
Music design is brilliant, and the developer knew precisely when to introduce some low-fi sounds into the game to build on the moment. It isn’t prominent in every stage, which makes the stages that it does show up more intense. The game takes about five hours to get through, which is expertly paced for a short and sweet experience.
Timelie is an approachable time-manipulation adventure that only borders on the line of overly complicated or too straightforward. It strikes a perfect balance with its mechanics and even introduces unique elements into the formula that make it stand out in the genre. The open narrative and lack of enemy types leave a bit to be desired, but this is one of the best time-based puzzle games that I’ve played in years.
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