Sunday, July 17, 2016

No Time To Explain Review (XONE)

An indie game can’t survive just by being quirky and weird.  Indies also can’t push uber oldschool hardcore difficulty as a main feature if the controls and core gameplay aren’t good enough.  No Time To Explain commits both of these sins.  Its only redeeming factor is that it is weird and that just isn’t enough when the gameplay is so aggressively and extremely not fun.  There’s No Time To Explain, but read our review anyway. 

Game Details

  • Publisher: tinyBuild Games
  • Developer: tinyBuild Games
  • ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
  • Genre: 2D Platformer
  • Pros:  Quirky story; presentation; co-op
  • Cons: Awful boss fights; controls aren’t precise enough; crazy difficulty; not fun
  • MSRP: $15

Your character from the future bursts into the house of your character in the present, shouts “I am you from the future.  There’s no time to explain.  Follow me to …” and is then carried off by a giant crab.  What’s the deal with the crab?  And the aliens?  And sharks?  Don’t worry about any of that.  Just go.

No Time To Explain is a 2D platformer using the extremely tired and obnoxious indie game design philosophy of “ultra crazy hardcore difficulty = fun””.  The game uses different weapons to propel your character through various trap-filled levels.  You start with a beam cannon that acts as sort of a jet pack, but eventually move on to shotguns and other crazier weapons as the game progresses.  The game regularly gives you new toys to play with and then a couple of levels to learn how to use them before having you fight a boss.  The levels are generally short with one real platforming puzzle to get through before you hop into a portal and move on to the next one.

The game is difficult, though.  Like, crazy stupid difficult.  You always restart on the last solid ground your character was standing on, so you never lose very much progress, but the constant deaths end up being very frustrating very quickly because the game just flat out doesn’t play very well.  You move your character with the left stick and shoot in any direction with the right stick to propel yourself around.  The levels require far more precision than the controls – particularly when you have to use the beam cannon - can offer, however.  You usually die because the controls are random and imprecise, not because you did something wrong, and that sucks.  It isn’t fun.  The levels that give you the other weapons and abilities are generally easier to control than the beam cannon, but that damn beam cannon makes up by far the majority of what you do. 

As if the platforming sections weren’t bad enough, the boss fights in No Time To Explain are just the absolute pits.  The boss fights suck because your weapon is your only means of propulsion as well as your only way to attack and balancing those two things are not something the game does particularly well.  The boss fights always take place in the most awkward areas possible where trying to avoid insta-death environmental hazards occupies your attention and effort as much as the rampaging boss itself does.  There’s just too much crap going on all at once and, as we mentioned above, the so-so controls just don’t provide you with enough control to keep up.  It ain’t fun.

I’m not saying the game is impossibly difficult or anything.  You can definitely spend enough time with it that you get used to the wonky controls and BS boss fights and learn how to pass through it all with ease, but it isn’t a very fun or rewarding experience.  The game seems largely based on luck and randomness, especially early on, and you’ll probably just get bored and / or frustrated long before your skill level builds enough that you can overcome the randomness. 

The one bright spot is the local co-op option with up to four players.  The controls are still wonky and clunky and the game is still difficult, but pushing friends off of ledges and doing silly stuff can be pretty fun and funny for a while.  Having more people also makes the boss fights better since you can grind through them faster.  It also gives you a good opportunity to use the dance button.  Yes, there is a button dedicated only to busting out sweet dance moves.

The presentation is also pretty decent in No Time To Explain with lots of bright colors and everything is nice and clean so you know exactly what to do and where to go.  The sound is also solid with particularly good weapon sound effects.

Ultimately, No Time To Explain simply doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from the huge crowd of uber difficult 2D platformers already flooding the market.  These sorts of games are supposed to be satisfying because you have a sense of growth and accomplishment as your skills improve, which is why you keep coming back even when you die a lot.  No Time To Explain doesn’t make you feel that way nearly often enough.  Instead you feel like things are out of your control more often than not, which just leads to frustration instead of satisfaction.  I’ll say it again – It just ain’t fun.  Maybe give it a look if you have particularly masochistic friends to play co-op with, but I can’t recommend it otherwise.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.