By: Derek Yu

On: December 14th, 2010

Temporal, by Renbo

[This is a guest review by snowyowl. To submit a guest article for TIGSource, go here.]

Temporal, by Renbo, is a puzzle platformer about a robot trying to get out of a space station laboratory. It’s not a new game (it was released in October 2008, and the Tick Update was in July 2009), but it hasn’t received as much attention as it deserves, so… let’s review it!

It’s a time travel game at heart, so if you liked Chronotron, Braid, or any similar games, you’ll love this game. The puzzles are original, the story is gripping, the jokes are funny, and it’s free to play too. It also has online leaderboards.

The graphics are cute, and look vaguely comic-book style, with black outlines and solid colours everywhere, as you can see on the screenshot above. The graphics favor attractiveness over realism; that’s why you’re in a space station with neon blue walls, and the boxes are orange with gaping holes in them.

The gameplay is great. Your goal in each level is to get the robot to a door. The game has crates to push around, buttons, doors, lifts, sensor beams, deadly particle beams, and, later on, more exotic elements like destructible walls, explosive crates and time stops. Oh, and time machines, of course. Each level is unique, and explores a different aspect of the game mechanics. Yes, you can cause a temporal paradox if you’re not careful, but this only results in a small score penalty. It’s easy enough to beat the entire story with no paradoxes, and most of the bonus challenges can be solved paradox-free too.

The music is nice; it’s usually quiet enough to let you concentrate, but it’s more dramatic during boss fights, and different again after you’ve beaten a level or when you watch a replay. I particularly love the sound effect the time machine makes as it charges up. It’s also a nice touch how most of the sound effects are louder when you’re closer to the source.

The story, which in and of itself is good, is also integrated very well with the rest of the gameplay. It’s mostly told through short pieces of dialogue that don’t interrupt gameplay (usually between the player character and his internal Technological Processor, who provides exposition and gets annoyed). More importantly, the story is integrated with the level design, by incorporating story-relevant signs, rooms, and switches with the game’s puzzles. It’s also very funny.

The game has its own community, where new players can ask for help with difficult puzzles and veterans compare their scores. Each level tracks the time it took you to solve it (player time, not game time – it’s not often that you have to specify), the number of paradoxes you created, and in Tick Mode, how many Ticks you collected. As mentioned above, there is a leaderboard, but it only displays the top score on each level, so it’s difficult to get a place (it tracks everyone’s scores if they uploaded them, it just doesn’t display them on the main page). Especially considering that mara.cze once took it as a challenge to get the best time on every level (he succeeded).

The game lasts a long time. The speedrunners struggle to complete the 30 levels of the main story in under 2 hours; a first-time player may need 10 hours or more. After that, there is the aforementioned Tick mode, unlocked by beating a level in which a few hundred stationary Ticks are scattered and your objective is to collect as many of them as possible (it’s usually not possible to get them all). There are also five trapped Milps scattered around the game; rescuing them unlocks Challenge levels and gets you the best ending.

Overall, definitely worth the download. There may be one or more puzzles where you get stuck, but none of them are unfair. Starting the game up makes a warning appear, which I feel sums up this review nicely:

Intense Technobabble
Mind Bending Puzzles
Bizarre Story

TIGdb: Entry for Temporal

  • MisterX

    Oha, this came out of nowhere. In the 2 years that it exists now, I've hardly ever heard about Temporal, except for the one time I was linked to it. So, it was very surprising to find out how great this is, it's very well designed all around. It does get pretty tough, though, which is why I haven't even finished half of the game by now. But, every now and again I go on playing it, beat another level and love it :)

    If only the developer added a way to retry only your last “incarnation” instead of having to restart the whole level, which can be lengthy, whenever you make a mistake. Temporal would be so much more accessible and less frustrating, because unlike speedy platformers it can get very tedious to restart and refine, time and time again.

  • Nikica

    Temporal is the only indie game that one of my friends knew about before I did, and it's a great game.

  • Wolatius

    If only you could move a little faster.
    This way it just feels too much like “labour”.

  • Sergio

    Try the F key?

  • Cowofdoom78963

    Screenshot does not do this justice, it's really pretty awesome.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4BL6S6QCZ6HACHB6QW7Q267AGI Snowyowl

    Agreed. In retrospect, I should have suggested a screenshot where two versions of you appear at once.

  • Bob

    Robot looks exactly like Robbie from beneath a steel sky…