Developer: tiny Build GAMES
I am you from the future. There's no time to explain! Follow me to... oh Christ?! Aaaaaargh!!
As a giant crab smashes through your wall and snatches up your future self in its mechanical claws, you grab his discarded laser cannon and pursue the paradoxical horror into one of the most surreal platform puzzlers on the market. No Time To Explain met with a fairly mixed reception when it launched last summer due to its unstable code and questionable value, but after receiving a massive new content pack and a huge amount of post-release bug fixing, this brave indie contender is finally ready for action. With GamersGate on board and a Steam submission in the works, there's definitely time to explain why.
Season 1 revolves around pursuing your imprisoned future self - and his inexplicable captors - though some short yet incredibly hazardous levels. Your trusty laser cannon acts as a means of propulsion rather than a weapon, allowing you to make massive guided leaps over otherwise impossible chasms or propel yourself laterally across all manner of spiky murder. Controlling the protagonist soon becomes second nature after a brief (and embarrassing) learning curve, and new mechanics such as a shotgun and side-scrolling shooter sequence occasionally switch up the pace. No Time To Explain is certainly a very difficult game, but incredibly generous checkpoints mean that you won't lose any real progress every time you screw up that damn jump again. And you will. Brainpower is just as important as firepower, so only the thoughtful and considered will survive.
This was a great setup that should have resulted in a work of utter brilliance, but the reality was slightly different. The bosses, which should have been the highlight of the proceedings, proved to be uninteresting chores that took many minutes to complete even though they literally couldn't harm you. The backdrops were crude and repetitive, and the challenges quickly started to stagnate. The worst offender were the bugged-out mechanics - and though they've now been fixed (mostly), Season 1 is a little disappointing despite providing a solid core experience.
Which is why I'm delighted that Season 2 (included with all new copies and freely available to anyone who already bought the game) ups the ante considerably. The levels are much more varied this time around from a mechanical standpoint and delight in introducing you to a number of wildly different gameplay ideas. You'll psychically fling yourself through an insane asylum. You'll whip an aborted clone fetus around a castle with his prehensile tail. You'll eat cake and, erm, get really fat. The sheer variety on offer is absolutely outstanding, and the bosses are much more intricate and relevant compared to the original.
By far my favourite part of the Season 2 is the storyline. Wait, let me rephrase that. Season 2 actually has a storyline of sorts, and takes its bizarre premise to a (il)logical conclusion rather than just playing for random laughs. While I publicly argue that games don't necessarily need a plot to succeed, it's refreshing to see an attempt at real storytelling in a game that, previously, was all about the 'lulz.' Mind you, it's still laugh-out-loud funny, and I chuckle every time I hear my future self informing all and sundry that his ribs are in his eyes.
There's also a level editor that potentially grants No Time To Explain unlimited replay value. Which is fortunate, because replay value is otherwise at a serious premium. The tiny, compartmentalised levels offer little reason to return beyond a few (admittedly awesome) collectible hats, and I can't help feeling that leaderboards or other contrivances would have helped give this one some extra legs. For the price, mind, it's good value.
I always feel a pang of guilt when calling out an Indie game for sub-par visuals, though in this case, the art style is unique and charming enough to avoid any serious negative criticism. No Time To Explain originally started life as a free-to-play Flash game and the simplistic design sticks true to its roots while being colourful and functional enough to enjoy. Mind you, 'rough around the edges' would be an understatement.
But I just can't forgive the glitches. No Time To Explain is infinitely more stable than it used to be, but encountering the occasional visual issue, clipping gaffe and full-blown bug is a very real part of the experience. These problems tend to be cosmetic rather than game-breaking, such as sprite displaying odd animations or quitting back to the chapter select only to discover that my character was confined beneath an invisible ceiling and unable to reach any of the level portals. It's still arguably a work in progress and will doubtlessly continue to evolve.
At the end of the day, I'm not convinced that No Time To Explain ever makes the most of its brilliant premise and laser-jumping mechanics. You'll move on to each new gameplay style or gimmick just as the last one starts to get truly interesting. In fact, they'd work brilliantly in a more ambitious title built around exploration and combat as well as some more complex puzzle elements. But it is what it is: a monumental achievement from such a small team that's well worth your time and money.
- Solid platforming with compelling difficulty
- Varied, funny and thoroughly bizarre
- Good value thanks to Season 2 and the level editor
- Very rough around the edges, never quite realises its potential
- Weak boss battles and limited scope in Season 1
- Still a little glitchy, but solid enough from a gameplay standpoint
The Short Version: No Time To Explain is a surreal and satisfying platforming romp. tiny Build GAMES are to be congratulated on bringing their brave vision to market, and though a few issues remain, it's now unquestionably worth the asking price.