Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), PC
A lot of people have lost touch on what a challenging platformer is supposed to be. Back in the NES days, we had to rely on completing a stage and writing down a password to get ahead, instead of conveniently relying on auto-saves and coming back to a certain point, as many players do now. You guys have it easy.
And that's why games like TinyBuild's No Time To Explain exists – to push forward your gaming skills while providing a fairly good time in its own right. It's goofy, and downright insane in some of the later levels of the game, but there's no question that this team knows where its retro roots lie. That's where most of Explain's appeal comes from. Is it for everyone? Nope. But those of you looking to dig elbow deep into a new challenge should jump right in.
The future is the past, or something
The story – well, there is no story. Your general set-up here is that you're just chilling in your apartment to music and, out of nowhere, your future self shows up, explaining that you need to come with him to save the world or something. It isn't long before peril sets in, when a giant crab (nod to Sony, perhaps?) snags him and makes his life a living hell, while you're in hot pursuit with a giant laser beam.
But this laser beam isn't just for offensive purposes. You actually use it as a jet pack of sorts, to propel yourself across large gaps and avoid spikes by getting through narrow areas. At first, the levels are wide open, so you get a better opportunity to test this out and get used to how it works. But later, you need to shoot with utmost precision, or you'll be starting over and over again.
Later characters are also introduced with unique abilities, like one character that can slingshot himself off walls, and another that uses a shotgun for propulsion across gaps (while, at the same time, yelling gibberish like "DOIN' IT!" – hilarious each time). These add some variety to each level, along with other items that open up, like laser beams that you can ride on or boost pads that, if you're not careful, will shoot you into instant death.
Here's a warning right now – in No Time To Explain, you're going to die often. We're talking wall-to-wall coffins with the bodies you supply. But this is part of the game's learning process, not unlike the Dark Souls games. You'll push further ahead and figure out how to get through areas, only to come to a great boss battle – a giant space crab, a shark with incredibly long limbs (don't ask) – and move on to the next set. It's a wonderful set-up, and while not everyone's speed in terms of difficulty, it's still rewarding.
Maybe don't bring your friends this time
Along with a single player campaign that will take you awhile (especially on later stages – hoo boy), No Time To Explain also supports four-player local co-op, so friends can join in and get to "DOIN' IT!" in terms of completing the level. It's a neat idea, but, this time around, it clutters up the screen a little more often than it should.
The effect is about the same as New Super Mario Bros., as it doesn't really lend to the overall experience, but the chaos can be a bit fun to watch. Do yourself a favor and start slow on the multiplayer front. Start with two, then work your way up as more and more loonies jump on board. Take it slow, and, eventually, you'll see what multiplayer settings work right for you.
Don't have friends around? Don't sweat it. The game still works just fine on a single player front, with a lot of hidden hats to find (gotta love hats) and other secrets to discover. It's not the end of the world if you skip it altogether.
A fitting, and funny, presentation
While No Time To Explain probably won't be considered the ultimate Xbox One platformer (it is based on a title that originally came out in 2011), at least its appearance doesn't get in the way of the action. The simple little animations and diabolically designed levels manage to mesh together just about perfectly, although there are some instances you can't see a certain peril – like a wall of spikes that are above you. Could it have been better? Of course. But it's not bad, for what it is.
As for the music, it's great. MrFurby delivers an upbeat little soundtrack that rolls along with the action, and even uses some stuff like piano to keep things interesting. You may be humming it to yourself when it's all over. The voicework is great as well, especially as future you screams in pain while being tormented by the crab, shark or whatever the heck has him in its clutches. "There's so much blood!" Sometimes the comments repeat, but not often enough to be annoying.
Oh, and whoever says "DOIN' IT!" with such gusto…give that guy an award.