Timespinner, if you’re looking for a decent metroidvania, is well worth your time and attention. It’s a game that surprised me in many ways, and although not without fault, I can see this going down well with the proverbial crowd of fans. Not only is the game well designed and well structured, but it’s surprisingly interesting throughout. Sure, it’s nowhere near on the same level as the top-tier metroidvanias readily available, but, it certainly manages to get a hell of a lot right, and furthermore, comes packed with replay value.
The game throws you into the role of Lunais, a young lady that’s become lost in time after witnessing her family being murdered by the evil Lachiem Empire. The Lachiem Empire seek to posses the Timespinner; a device able to send people through time. Now, devastated and distraught, Lunais aims to use the Timespinner to control time and get revenge on the empire that’s ruined her. It’s an immediately interesting introduction, and one that certainly knows how to pace its plot rather well. It helps, of course, that there’s a lot of lore to enjoy.
The game enables you (but never forces you) to seek out backstories and lore where and when you see fit. Throughout your adventure, you’ll come to learn more about not only the world, but its inhabitants, its locales, and even more about the Lachiem Empire. This is drip-fed to you through a mixture of story beats, character engagement, and notes and books that you can interact with throughout. Essentially, the world within feels more in place and more grounded as a result, rather than just that of a frame to hold everything together.
What I especially enjoyed here is the ability to jump between two periods of time; past, and present. Whilst this is hardly a new gimmick, Timespinner uses this mechanic considerably well. Furthermore, this framework enables you to engage with two different civilizations, at the same time as being constantly met with vastly different designs and structural presentations. On top of that, there’s quite a lot of ground to cover throughout, all of which is bulked up through a collection of both main quests and a string of optional side quests.
The latter of which is served to you through engaging with the game’s NPCs, all of whom tend to dish out quest-lines that see you undertaking tasks for them in one form or another. Many NPCs also double up as vendors, granting you access to useful items and gear to keep you on-par with the many nasties out in the world. This alone ensures that each time period feels more padded and more meaningful, giving you plenty of things to do should you decide to stumble off the beaten path for a small while to seek out favor with a character.
Each period in time sports its own map, and although not as interconnected as (say) Hollow Knight, the game’s world remains interesting enough to remain captivating. I should also point out that Timespinner sports a variety of varying difficulties, ranging easy through to nightmare, as well as a new game plus option post-endgame. This, on top of all the side activities and collectibles that you can take to along the way, provides heaps of longevity. Though, let’s get back to the basics, shall we? How exactly does Timespinner play out?
In truth, despite the odd hiccup with its handling, it’s one of the most fluid games of this kind that I’ve played. Interestingly enough, Lunais’ weaponry consists of orbs rather than your traditional selection of weapons. These orbs levitate around Lunais, and will dish out melee-based attacks whenever you tap the X button. There’s a range of different orbs that you can collect throughout, all of which pack a different punch; blade orbs, fire orbs, and so forth. You can also mix and match them, as well as level them up throughout the game.
Leveling up your orbs grants you more damage per-leveled up orb, which can also be said about your alternative gear. Outside of your orbs, you can equip two more items; starting with a colossal blade, and, a scythe ring. The former is your charged attack, which is accessible via holding down the B button, whereas the latter is a passive ability. There’s a nice amount of variation on show, each packing a unique power that will aid you on your journey. That all runs alongside your equipment, which again, there’s plenty to pick up.
The equipment system is standard for the most part. Here, you’ll wear whatever wares you can get your hands on, all of which will bulk up your stats; damage, defense, will, fortitude, and luck. This will rise in unity with Lunais’ core level ups. Then, there’s the Familiars. These are little pet-like creatures that will follow you around. They all come with their own independent level up systems, and will rise in capability depending on how much you bulk them up. One neat twist is that a second local player can take on their roles to help you out.
Timespinner is quite accessible. The game’s menus and its interface are well laid out, granting you swift access to usage items, maps, journals, and more besides. Much like Hollow Knight, you’ll be able to find key points of interest quite easily thanks to how the map unfolds and highlights these areas. Whilst the overall map isn’t gigantic, it’s fairly vast, and as such, a fast travel system is mercifully introduced later on; a system that’s also used for bobbing and weaving between periods of time. To its credit, it’s all straightforward.
The actual gameplay, despite the odd flaw, is thoroughly well refined. Both movement and combat remains precise throughout, making for a fast-paced, gratifying affair. Given its metroidvania framework, you can expect quite a bit of backtracking too. There’s several areas that are blocked off until you have the right ability, such as being able to double jump or dive underwater. You’ll also need some key items later in to access some specific areas, most of which tend to revolve around needing a specific tiered security clearance card.
The game’s world is chock-full of beasts and bosses, all of which remain diverse, interesting, and come with their own unique behavioral and attack patterns. Timespinner can be a very tough game when it wants to be, so it pays off to take the time to kill as many enemies as you can. Doing so wont only reward you with EXP to level up Lunais, but will grant you items that prove handy; whether they be for NPCs or consumption. The only real downside for me was the fact that the ability to manipulate time wasn’t truly put to great use throughout.
Lunais can freeze time at the drop of a hat, which will subsequently freeze pretty much everything and anything on-screen. The problem? There’s rarely ever a time that you need to use it. Sure, you can use it to run across a bridge that would otherwise crumble under your feet, or, use it to freeze a boss whilst you creep behind an attack, but outside of that, it comes across somewhat unnecessary. Furthermore, you can circumvent pretty much every single enemy in the game via stopping time, and you rarely ever run out of its resource.
It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but I would have liked to have seen more innovation on this front, because as it stands, it does the game as much injustice as justice. Still, it’s fun to use when the occasion calls for it. Speaking of resources, you’ll find no shortage of items in the game’s world. Timespinner is full of objects that you can destroy and chests that you can open to gain items, currency, and indeed pick-ups that will replenish your capabilities. That said, to max complete this, you’ll need some considerable skill to collect everything.
The game is packed with secret areas and hidden sections that will take a trained eye to seek out, not to mention some fast button work to overcome the nasties that sit in wait. That, alongside all of the game’s side content and quests, collectively ensures that you’ve got hours of work before you see and complete everything that’s on offer. Thankfully, even when there’s a lot of action on-screen, the game’s performance never buckles under pressure. The whole ordeal remains as responsive and as precise as you could hope.
In regards to the visual and audio design, Timespinner gets a big thumbs up on both fronts. The game’s gorgeous pixel art is outstanding, providing heaps of detail and variation across each world and time frame. I’ll extend the same level of appreciation to the game’s stunning character models, being that they’re all wonderfully crafted throughout. The audio is equal to all of that, putting forward cues and a solid soundtrack that helps to set the mood. With its few issues to the side, I can only wholeheartedly recommend this to fans of the concept.
Whilst not quite on the same level as top-tier metroidvanias, fans of the concept will love Timespinner for all that it gets right. The game’s story remains interesting throughout, with gameplay that’s well paced, exciting, and consistently engaging, not to mention fairly open and deep. It’s a shame that its time manipulating mechanic isn’t put to better use, but that gripe, alongside a few niggling issues, does little to pull this adventure shy of being worthwhile.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.