Available on: Windows PC, Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Developer: Lunar Ray Games
Publisher: Chucklefish Games
Version Tested: Switch
Official Site: Lunar Ray Games
Release Date: June 4th, 2019
The Metroidvania genre seems like it’s doing really well these past few years. From games like Bloodstained to smaller budget titles, indie developers seem to love the genre. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night established many of the elements of what makes a great Metroidvania. These include a labyrinthine 2D overworld with branching paths and secret routes. Great music, sound effects, and atmosphere are other things SotN did really well (as well as introducing light RPG elements). Timespinner, developed by Lunar Ray Games, includes all of these elements plus tight controls that make the player feel like there are no cheap deaths. If you die, you know it’s your fault.
Despite all the positives, a criticism that could be made is that the title is too short. At only around 6 hours, it can be finished in a couple of sittings. Despite this, the title does what it does really well and is highly recommended to fans of the genre. As the title suggests, Timespinner includes time travel and the player will often be warping between the past and present. This is presented to the player through warp ‘gates’ that not only let you move between set gates in the time zone you’re in but also through time itself.
Metroidvania with Time Travel?
Lachiem is the civilization the game is set in and the lore revolves around an interstellar empire that has attacked the protagonist’s homeworld and left it in ruin. You play as Lunais, a purple haired young woman who has the ability to travel through time to affect the period she hails from. The story has depth and there’s lots of text as well as different memories and letters that can be found. I felt that, at times, the amount of dialogue could be overwhelming but if you want to explore the lore, there is a lot to dive in to. Because of the time mechanic, the story takes twists and turns and depending on which artifacts you’ve found by the end, there are multiple endings.
The fact there are multiple endings and many secrets to find gives the game high replayability. For an indie game, the structure of the player’s journey is very ambitious and this is something Lunar Ray Games should be given credit for. Although the games artistic vision is much darker than a game like Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, they’re relatively similar in terms of gameplay and story structure. Timespinner also includes in-game achievements called ‘feats’, which is a real bonus since the Switch doesn’t have its own system of achievements.
Presentation of the title is high quality. The graphics use classic pixel art inspired by the 16-bit era. Although the environments are often dark, there is variety and the player will visit military hangars, picturesque lakes, old laboratories, and high towers. Enemy animations are also really well done and require you to learn their attack patterns to take them out. The game also has a variety of bosses, some of which are relatively easy but others can actually be quite difficult.
Tight controls really make combat enjoyable and Lunais has a few different types of attacks. The main attack uses two orbs (which can be customized) that are thrown out towards enemies. There is also a more powerful attack that must be charged and uses mana. This attack is much more powerful and as you progress, you’ll earn different variations on this attack including a giant sword, a flurry of beam energy and more.
Timespinner also includes light RPG elements. Lunais can level up along with her attacks. This means there’s more than one way to take on an enemy and each enemy has its own weaknesses and strengths. Despite this, the game is slightly on the easy side of things. However, once you finish a playthrough on normal mode, you unlock nightmare difficulty. Nightmare difficulty is much harder and has it’s own separate ‘feats’ to go along with it. One aspect of gameplay that I haven’t mentioned yet is that there’s an underused mechanic to stop time. This lets the player use enemies as platforms to get to out of reach areas. It can also be used in combat but it doesn’t really add much. Just using it as a way to get to higher platforms seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.
The soundtrack of Timespinner is really impressive as well. It helps to create a dark and foreboding atmosphere. You’ll find yourself remembering many of the tracks. Music together with the beautiful graphics really makes an emotive experience. This is fairly similar to games like Ocarina of Time and Chrono Trigger in the sense that they all use time travel as a tool to create a deep experience.
Verdict: Overall, Timespinner is a great Metroidvania with tight controls, interesting lore, and great presentation. The short length is definitely a negative and a few underused mechanics make it seem like Lunar Ray Games ran out of time with this title. Despite this, everything in Timespinner comes together to create a dark but stylish experience that any fan of the genre should pick up.