Indie Quickie: Project Temporality

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? A time-warping, brain-busting action-puzzle game. In outer space!

Who made it and where can you get it? The team at Defrost Games put together this sci-fi brain-tormentor. Buy it now on Desura or Steam for the regular price of $14.99. (Steam is offering a promotional price of $9.99 until May 27th.)

How much did we play? Approximately two hours, which was enough time to complete five of the game’s fourteen total levels. So far I have earned seven gold stars (each stage rewards up to three stars based on performance).

Any technical concerns or hardware requirements you should know about? On a couple occasions I encountered a glitch where the character became stuck on a railing or some other part of the environment, and could not be moved. Luckily, the game has a time rewind mechanic, and to my surprise I was actually able to override these glitches by rewinding progress to before they occurred. These bugs need to be squashed, but at least they aren’t game-breaking as they would be in other games without time manipulation. The Steam page lists that the game has partial controller support, but from what I played mouse and keyboard definitely seemed like the natural choice. Of course, certain players will probably be a wee bit disappointed that a key rebinding option is currently not provided.

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Why should you play it?

    Project Temporality takes place aboard a space station orbiting Jupiter. Given the name Subject 87, you awaken suited up like Isaac Clarke from Dead Space after having a time-altering augmentation implanted in your brain. But rather than facing down a Necromorph infestation in survival-horror action, this game is all about challenging your mind with one perplexing puzzle after another. The brain implant allows you to rewind time (left-click to enter timewarp mode and then hold down the A/D key to adjust the timeline) and create time clones (right-click without exiting timewarp) to perform what the game calls act-rewind-duplicate combos, which in more elaborate terms means you can perform an action, return to a time before you did said action, and then spawn a clone to complete the action over again while you continue to control the main character in the flesh. It’s like playing co-op with yourself. Typically this involves creating clones to stand on pressure switches which open doors, activate moving platforms, rotate mirrors to reflect laser beams, and so on. A quick series of tutorial tests teach the basics, but it doesn’t take long before you’re thrown into some tricky scenarios that require choreographing clones to move through a series of doors or switches within a matter of seconds, or to have them leap across multiple moving platforms while taking turns triggering a laser beam to change directions at just the right moments so you can safely avoid its forceful blast. So far there has been a nice sense of progression with each puzzle building upon the one before it and opening up more complicated ways to use the timewarp mechanic. You will need to experiment with clones and constantly rewind mistakes until the light bulb finally goes off, but it’s a fun challenge to overcome.

    Your ability to comprehend and master time manipulation is rewarded in an interesting way. During each test track a blue bar appears at the top of the screen representing the timewarp implant’s battery life. The number of clones created and the length of the rewind actions determines the amount of energy drain. Star icons placed across this bar establish the medal tiers for completing each puzzle. Whizzing through puzzles without wasting a lot of juice will earn a maximum of three gold stars, but don’t expect it to be easy. Even early in the game I’ve only been able to earn two stars on two of the stages. The other three have all been one-star performances. But that just means there will be plenty of replay value to be had by re-running stages from the level select menu to improve rankings.

    The atmosphere is another thing that will really draw you in. Unlike other puzzlers of this ilk, the game is not structured like a long, segmented sequence of test chambers. Each stage takes place within a fairly large section of the space station, and between puzzles you will have brief intermission periods to explore and find notes which gradually begin to form a back story about what’s going on. The seemingly abandoned space station is a very lonely and depressing environment, almost every room built with windows to let the sun shine in and almost intentionally seem to taunt the test subjects by rubbing the captivity in their faces. Blood splattered on walls as well as notes left behind by other test subjects also suggest there is a darker conspiracy to uncover than is initially let on. The animations are stiff and the minimal sound effects are lame (the Mario-esque jumping sound is particularly out of place), but overall the visual detail (particularly the lighting and shadowing) and the sci-fi elevator music vibe to the soundtrack add to the lost in space immersion.

Parting Thoughts: Whenever a new action-puzzle game comes out these days it will inevitably be compared to Portal, as if Portal invented the genre. That needs to stop. Yes, Project Temporality similarly involves solving experimental puzzles as a test subject for a shady corporation (in this case Alrik Industries), but that’s where the similarities begin and end. If you’re looking for comparisons, Project Temporality is really more like a combination of Braid and The Swapper set in a fully three-dimensional world viewed from a third-person perspective. There is a completely different form of puzzle-solving logic to this game that can be tough to wrap your brain around and at times may even make your head feel like it is going to explode, but ultimately leads to those wonderful “Aha!” moments that typify what a great puzzle game should be.

Disclosure: A free Steam key for Project Temporality was provided to VGBlogger.com by the developer.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!