Timeloop Hands-On Preview – ’round the clock

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I have admitted it before and I’ll admit it again: my gaming skills are far from admirable. Add that to inept puzzle-solving abilities, and I am a sad and frustrated lump of a gamer who can barely stretch his digital legs. Fortunately, I thrive on frustration and Connect2Media‘s Timeloop has plenty of it. It is a fun game which places you in the role of Nik, the robotic janitor of a mad-scientist who has just invented the time-machine. As they must, things go astray whilst Nik is cleaning. The result? The professor is trapped and Nik is left with the duty of freeing his boss and recapturing a litter of runaway kittens before time runs out.

With that covered, rescue is much easier said than done. Firstly, Timeloop isn’t exactly an adventure. Nor is it a pure puzzler. Rather it blends key elements of several different gaming genres together in a new melange of entertainment. Timeloop’s namesake comes from the time warps which Nik employs in every level of the game. In this vein, it is simple. Timeloop requires a bit of logic, some quick thinking, and luck. In order to save the professor, you must open a series of doors, fix broken machines and cooperate with your duplicated selves. All of this must be done within time constraints which can, at times, be tight. Since each instance of Nik can only perform one action at at time, your job can get very frustrating!

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But that is where this game is ingenious. Most of the puzzle-solving is done with regards to opening doors to the next room. Some are straight-forward, requiring only the overhaul of one remote-control desk. Others, however, require Nik to go back in time, duplicate and shadow his former self and finally, perform the needed action. The first three levels familiarise you with controls and basic interaction with the world – from there, the real adventure begins. There are also two helpful tutorial files in the menu to help you navigate Timeloop.

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This formula of frenetic, mutli-genre gaming is a success. Though simple, Timeloop is intensive. Everything is controlled by taps. Time warping is controlled in two ways: by tapping the swirly loop button, or by shaking the device. While it is nice of Connect2Media to tack-on accelerometer input, it isn’t always practical. When things get hairy (and they will), shaking the device may disorient the game – something with which you cannot reconcile with when the clock is swiftly counting backwards.

While on the subject, there is one thing to complain about. Tap controls, while in theory, perfect, often compete with poor AI. Yes, there is AI in this game, albeit simple. Nik must move from place to place in order to solve each puzzle and interact with items. Sometimes, however, he cannot figure out how to get passed a wall or through an open door even when the line of sight is fairly straight. The same is true for finding objects like remote control machines and even stray cats. What this means is you will have to make multiple taps in curved lines around the map to help Nik finally get to where he should have gone from the first input. Even the menu sometimes doesn’t register taps – while not as frustrating as Nik’s poor pathfinding skills, it can be a bit much to swallow after repeating levels over and over again due to Nik’s drunken navigation. Fortunately, when pinching, panning and/or zooming to get a better vantage of the level, none of the erratic behaviour exhibited by Nik applies.

With that caveat considered, Timeloop rocks. Its graphics are light-hearted, silly, and colourfully perfect for its theme. There are cute comic-book cut sequences and good humour all about this game. Of course it runs smoothly and is a delight to watch. From its opening animations to in-game details, Timeloop sparkles with humour and artistic touch. Luckily, its music system too, is great. Upbeat and light, this puzzler’s music moves the game forward with great tunes, but unfortunately, won’t play your iTunes music or act as a pass-through.

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So is Timeloop fun? Yeah. While I’ve no real information about price, I know that it will be revealed soon. I am quite a horrid puzzle-gamer; Connect2Media’s ability to draw me in with a quirky melding of many genres of gaming is clever, and probably necessary. Yet, at the same time, gamers who are looking for hard-core implementations of either puzzle or adventure will probably feel that Timeloop leaves too much out.

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