Let’s face it: we’re not exactly short of metroidvania-style titles these days, are we? It’s a genre that’s proven quite a favourite for indie developers, with new titles seemingly dropping every few weeks. I’m a fan so it’s not a bad thing, but it does mean that they have to offer something special in order to really grab my attention. Thankfully, Timespinner does just that with its enjoyable time-bending story, its fantastic combat and its impressive visuals. After a release on other platforms, it has now made its way to the Nintendo Switch too, giving gamers the chance to partake in the entertaining adventure on the big screen or in the palms of their hands.
Timespinner puts you in the shoes of Lunais, a young girl who has been trained to become a Time Messenger: someone who is able to go through time in order to warn others about possible threats. With her training complete, she prepares to take on her responsibilities and go through time to protect her people, but her inauguration is ruined when the villainous Lachiemi Empire attack and kill her friends and family. Worst of all, Lunais is sent through time by the titular Timespinner where she not only discovers the origins of the Lachiemi Empire but also their intent. With her time-travelling skills in tow, Lunais has to work to stop the Lachiemi Empire and save her people in the process – of course, time holds many secrets, so the journey may not be a particularly straight-forward one…
I’ve always been a fan of time-travelling in narratives, so I enjoyed seeing Timespinner’s tale unfold. It helps that it’s full of intriguing twists and turns too, whilst the colourful cast you meet certainly help bring everything to life. Add to that the fact that there are multiple endings to uncover based upon your actions and you’ll quickly find that Timespinner offers one of the more fleshed-out tales to be found in the genre.
The combat of Timespinner is absolutely stellar. It’s based around using floating orbs, which can be launched at enemies in quick-hitting melee style combos. Sounds simple enough, right? Well it is for the most part, but the fact that you’re able to change your orb load-out means there’s plenty of room for versatility with your attacks. There are an abundance of different orbs to find that each do something different too, so mixing them up and combining their abilities is always a lot of fun. Want to go down the elemental route and hit out fireballs with your orbs? Do it. Or would you prefer some floating guns and swords? Go for it. There’s flexibility in place for you to really change up your attacks and you’ll have a good time playing around to see what works best for you. Of course, sometimes it’s worth checking your enemies’ weaknesses to see what they’re most vulnerable to, but if you just want to use something that feels cool that’s fine.
You’re also able to equip necklaces to gain access to more powerful abilities, whilst rings can improve your existing attacks in a variety of ways. You can even have Familiars to help you out in battle with their offensive and defensive capabilities – best of all, these familiars can be controlled by a second player, so there’s a fun co-operative element to the game too (even if the Familiar’s abilities are a bit limited). It’s just clear throughout that a lot of care and attention went into Timespinner’s combat and the versatility that it offers isn’t only fun to play around with but also ensures that beating up baddies never stops being entertaining throughout the entirety of the game.
Those time-bending antics that are prominent in Timespinner’s narrative come into the gameplay too, with the player finding themselves switching between two different time periods to see the world in different ways. You’ll also use your powers to solve puzzles, with the player able to freeze time in order to create some make-shift platforms, evade enemies, or keep moving objects in place.
The time manipulation is pretty neat, though it’s something that I thought could’ve been a bit more fleshed out. It doesn’t really evolve as you progress through the game, whilst its use often feels pretty limited to situations that demand it too: I never found myself freezing time just to get past any particularly tricky sections for example, but only in places where it was necessary in order to progress.
Given the fact that it’s a metroidvania-style title, there’s a lot of exploration in Timespinner. As expected, you’ve got a pretty sizeable map to uncover, with plenty of different rooms to explore and areas you won’t be able to access until you’ve unlocked certain abilities. You can expect to do some backtracking too, especially if you want to hit that hundred-percent mark as far as map completion is concerned.
The thing is, whilst most titles in the genre see you constantly moving around vertically and horizontally to get around their labyrinth-style environments, Timespinner felt a lot more linear in design. The pathway you’ve got to follow is always pretty straight-forward, whilst the optional locales or hidden rooms were always pretty obvious too. It’s not really a big problem and it’s nice to have a clear path to follow at times, but the fact that the platforming itself felt a little ordinary and rarely challenging meant that things could be a little bit TOO simple. Again, it’s nothing bad by any means, but metroidvania veterans may find it’s a bit too easy for the most part.
At least there’re plenty of things to do in the world though, with the side quests not only giving you some additional objectives but also fleshing out the story. There are some collectibles to find out and about too, as well as an optional dungeon that’ll really push your combat and platforming skills to their limit. Add to that the multiple endings and the unlockable ‘Nightmare’ difficulty that really ups the challenge and it’s easy to see there’s quite a lot to Timespinner.
One thing that’ll be obvious to anyone who plays the game is that it’s super attractive, with some beautiful pixel art on show in both the game’s environments and character design. The world itself is meant to be a little desolate, but it’s hard not to be impressed by its creative design and abundance of impressive sights. I’ve got to give a shout out to the soundtrack too, which doesn’t only offer tunes that fit in perfectly with the vibe of each scene you find yourself in, but also just so happens to be extremely catchy too. Honestly, Timespinner really deserves top marks for the way it looks and sounds.
With its intriguing story, excellent combat mechanics, and beautiful presentation, there’s a whole lot of fun to be had adventuring through Lunais’ journey in Timespinner. It’s just a shame that your time-bending abilities and the game’s explorative elements aren’t a bit more fleshed out – it’s not that any of it is bad by any means, but that a bit more variety to it would’ve easily seen Timespinner hit the peak of the genre and stand tall with some of the all-time classics.
Neither of these issues stop Timespinner from being a blast to play though and it’s yet another fine metroidvania-style release that fans of the genre won’t want to miss out on.
Developer: Lunar Ray Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, PC