Platforms: PC (Reviewed), PS4, PSVITA
We’re in a Metroidvania games renaissance these days. Dead Cells and Hollow Knight are arguably at the forefront, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the others that are being made. One such Metroidvania that deserves your attention is Lunar Ray Games’ Timespinner.
Before you dive into Timespinner there’s one crucial thing that you need to know: it’s a crowdfunded game so your experience may vary depending on if you donated to the campaign or just picked it up after it was released.
Players who funded the game receive codes for extra orbs (main weapons) and familiars that are not available for regular players.
Spinning a story
Set in a faraway solar system, you play as Lunais, newly christened Time Messenger for your tribe, the Qaelans, on the planet Winderia. Time Messengers are tasked with keeping the tribe safe from the evil, imperialistic Lachiem Empire that is hell-bent on getting their hands on the Timespinner, a mythical device that allows Time Messengers to go back in time. The downside is that when a Time Messenger goes back in time, they’re erased from their own history.
The empire attacks, Emperor Nuvuis shows up and kills your mother, and you’re flung back in time further than you intended with only one goal: get your revenge on the empire and save your tribe in the process.
Bouncing back and forth between the where you’re flung and what was present-day plays heavily into the game. Your actions in the past heavily affect how the environments change in present-day.
Revealing the history of the Empire and its adversaries is mostly optional, though hard to avoid. Each piece of history, whether it’s a text from a previous Time Keeper or the records of the empire, slowly pulls back the curtain on the overall storyline.
Orbs at the ready
By far the best designed part of the game is the combat system. The initially simplistic setup leads to bigger and better things as you progress. Orbs of different types—fire, iron, plasma—are picked up throughout your progression and each provide the player with a different way to vanquish enemies.
Prefer hacking your way through enemies with brute force? Equip the Blade and Iron orbs. Want to play a more hit and run style? Go for the Fire and Ice orbs to freeze and immolate your foes.
The best part of the orb system, besides the numerous combinations and augments, is that the game lets you switch through three different setups using the right trigger button at any time.
Experimenting with the orb combinations and the charge moves is one of the best parts of the game. The one downside of having so many different orbs is that you have to level them up through use. There are rare items in the game that allow you to power up an orb by five levels, but I only found around six by the time I completed the game. Expect some grinding if you plan on leveling up all the orbs.
As for the enemies you take on, they’re all vastly different in design and fighting style. More than once I found myself surprised by what I was combating. The boss fights are much the same way, unique in their moves with no two bosses acting or looking even remotely similar.
Lastly, we can’t forget the time aspect of combat. It plays a big part in the game, especially if you go through on the harder difficulties. You have the ability to stop time, entirely, with no restrictions. Any boss, even the final boss, can be stopped in its sepia-toned tracks. It’s a core part of the gameplay that players need to use and practice in order to perfect.
The ability to stop time also allows the player to explore new areas that normally wouldn’t be accessible. But it’s trickier than just stopping time. Numerous permanent upgrades require you to manipulate enemies into position so you can stop time and use them as ledges to access areas. It’s a small piece of the game, but it’s one that really rewards the player.
We need more time
The shortcomings of Timespinner revolve heavily around the fact that the game is so short. It only took me six hours to complete the game. I was left slightly dumbfounded that my experience was already over. I wanted more content, bigger levels, and new enemies. I wanted to go back and explore hidden areas, but the maps had already been explored for the most part.
If you opt for a second run, there are harder difficulties including a level-cap mode where you can’t go above level one. This will create an immense challenge for the hardcore players out there.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the art and the soundtrack to this game. Like other Metroidvania-style games, the backgrounds are non-interactive, but enchanting. They add so much to the texture and the feel of the game.
As for the music, I was often reminded of the Golden Sun soundtrack. The soft, gothic library music, the heart-pounding military tempo, the idyllic serenity of the lakeside. Each zone has its own beautifully crafted track that is intoxicating as it gets lost in the back of your mind.