Rarely do school projects end as masterpieces. While I would stop short of calling Timelie a masterpiece, it is an impressive game nonetheless, especially considering its humble beginnings as a student-led project.
If you’re a regular reader, you may have already read our interview with the indie developers at Urnique Studio. After playing a demo of their award-winning game, it was pretty clear to me that the critical acclaim was earned and not just hype.
Also, as I noted in my preview, Timelie is a game that does not require a powerhouse PC while still looking visually appealing. I appreciate that, because I do most of my gaming on consoles and my PC is a bit outdated. However, even on the highest settings, it ran smoothly.
So what can you expect?
Timelie is a stealth-puzzle game where you play as a youngish girl. You also come across a cat early on, who you help out at first, befriend, and then take control of as a second character. The game splits between levels where you control just one character and others where you control both.
This is where I should mention that you find yourself in a surreal, almost computer-like world where time can be manipulated. Also, the girl has powers that can be activated when she collects orbs. This allows her to basically undo time. Eventually, she’ll also gain the ability to disable enemies.
Speaking of enemies, they come in the form of robotic guards that patrol each level and beat you with a baton if they spot and catch you. If this happens, time freezes and you have to rewind to try again. Pressing Q on your keyboard reverses time; E acts as a fast forward button.
There is also a bar at the bottom of the screen that acts as a timeline. You can drag time forward or backward to redo a section of a level or quickly return to the beginning. It’s an intuitive and unobstructive feature.
I will say that constantly pressing fast forward, rewind, and switching between characters can become annoying after a while. Sometimes I would rewind time to get back to a point where it was safe to try a different tactic, only to realize that I also needed to adjust the second characters’ movement too. Frankly, it’s a minor gripe and one that is less of a design flaw than it is just me being impatient.
So you control the girl and she has powers. But what about that darned cute cat? By the way, while we’re at it, let’s give the cat a name: Mr. Whiskers.
Mr. Whiskers is handy for several things, aside from being generally adorable. He can meow, which distracts guards and clears a path for our female protagonist. In addition, Mr. Whiskers can crawl into tight spaces to easily evade detection or capture. Lastly, he is the perfect weight for pressure plates, opening previously locked doors.
Honestly, they make a pretty good team. And although switching between the two all the time tests my patience, the levels – which are basically large puzzles to navigate – are cleverly designed. It’s a refreshing game to play.
One last note: I appreciate the fact that the developers used such a minimalist design approach. You don’t get bogged down with lengthy tutorials or blocks of text. You learn through observing, doing, and experimentation.
As a student project, they get an A+. As a commercial video game competing for people’s hard-earned cash, it gets a thumbs up from me too. It’s polished. It has interesting gameplay mechanics. And it is priced right. What’s not to like?
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.