In the wake of indie development becoming so popular and common, we are now seeing a lot of the same micro-genres being redone over and over again. One such type of game that roots itself in the mobile app craze, but has become much more profitable on PC and console is the level based, 2D, action sidescroller. These, on some level, draw their origins from classic games like the original Super Mario Bros., but the way they are done currently is much closer to free to play games you can download from the Google Play Store. I have reviewed so many of these and played countless more. We’re talking games like Aero’s Quest, INK, and even to some extent Rasternauts. These games find their audience not in being the best games out there but in being easy to pick up, put down, and return to. While they’re not my favorite games to play and on some level I find many of them to be a cheap way for developers to get their name out there, there are some that are much better than others. That’s the mentality I went into No Time To Explain with. tinyBuild Games originally released this game on PC in the middle of last year, but the PS4 port only recently became available March 29th. This was actually the first time I ever heard about the game.
No Time To Explain is an interesting and mildly hilarious amalgamation of 2D platformer, shooter, and survival puzzle game with a time travel theme. It does many things well enough to be an entertaining experience, but very few things are done so well as to make me love the game. Visually it’s a lot of really good ideas and themes but it’s way too simple to impress. The game is basically all 2D still backgrounds with stationary 2D platforms in the foreground/playable area. These backgrounds change quite frequently, which adds a lot to the experience and theme of the game. You travel to a number of different worlds/time periods that have a number of different themes such as money, snow, football, and alien spaceship. Each of these worlds does have its own character and feel, but the general graphics quality is nothing to write home about. The only moving parts in the game are the playable character, his gun, and the future version of the playable character that you are chasing after being carried by a giant monster which changes periodically. These same monsters also constitute the bosses. The graphics look pretty much all hand drawn with a few effects added in something like Photoshop. It all runs very smoothly, which is a must for these sorts of games, and by no means looks bad, and there is actually a lot going on in certain areas, but ultimately I felt the basic style of the game to be even less impressive than that of Super Meat Boy in many respects. While the graphics aren’t a reason to take points off, they certainly aren’t a reason to add points on to this game either.
The gameplay, for the most part, I actually really liked. It’s one of the better games in this genre I’ve played when it comes down to mechanics. You use a gun, which occasionally changes for certain levels, to propel yourself to the end of each level. Other than the occasional boss fight, that’s the whole game. Get to the exit portal. The controls are very simple. You can move with the left stick, jump, and fire your gun. The basic gun is a beam cannon which can be used to push you in the opposite direction that it’s firing. You can fire in any direction. You get more lift the closer you are to the ground at the start of propulsion. Because of this, you actually get farther when starting your lift from the ground than when you jump first. When you get other guns, such as the shotgun, the propulsion style changes but the general idea and goal is still the same. The gun is obviously also a weapon so you must use it to do things like break through obstacles and fight bosses. This makes doing certain things tricky because you have to complete tasks like avoid spikes and shoot a boss while dealing with the propulsion. Basic levels are very short. Most of them can be beaten in under a minute with even the longest ones taking less than five with deaths. The respawn system in this game is probably my favorite of any in this genre. You have unlimited lives and no time limit. When you die you instantly respawn to the farthest safe standing point you reached. So if you get to the very end of the level and then jump off the platform you will respawn instantly on that last platform. Sometimes the game even respawns you forward when you reach a certain point because of what I assume is a coding error, but it always works in your favor so I take no issue with it.
The general idea of the game is pretty simple, but there are a number of things that affect the basic mechanics of the game. Some levels contain water which causes you and your gun to react slightly differently. Some levels have odd puzzles and interaction elements such as a swinging axe blade. And each boss is a slightly different fight. There are a number of different levels broken up into different worlds for lack of a better word, but the divisions between them are not clearly defined. The first world ends with a boss fight which then opens up the second world. But by the time you beat the second boss fight you will be surprised to find out that you’re now on the fifth world. At any time you can go to the HUB world and select whatever world you’ve already beaten or made it to, but you can’t pick individual stages within each world which means you will have to beat all levels within a world before you get to whatever specific level you are looking for. The boss fights aren’t bad, but some are much better than others. Each one is its own little puzzle which requires a slightly altered strategy to defeat. You get three extra lives for each boss fight before you have to start it over. In general, the gameplay is the best aspect of No Time To Explain and it’s one of the only titles in this genre that I actually want to go back to after reviewing it.
The sound in this game is good, but full of holes. The effects, for example, are very well done, but lacking in certain places. There’s a walking sound but not a jumping/landing sound. Different types of things you move on/through make different sounds like water and coins. Firing different weapons make different types of sounds. Yet bosses make only a few noises some of the time. The effects are well mixed, but I feel like there could definitely have been more of them. The music is quite good. It’s a limited number of softer techno tracks that are perfectly balanced with the effects, but the music stops and restarts instead of cleanly looping. There’s also no music playing when you pause, instantly destroying the atmosphere of the game. The voice acting is top notch, but very little other than funny phrases at the beginning of each level is said. You can manually alter the volume levels of the music and effects and also turn the sound on or off to the PS4 controller. The best way to describe the sound is that the guy who made it did a great job, but the guy who decided how to use it didn’t manage it very well.
As the title denotes, the writing in this game is very limited. It starts out with you dancing in your house when suddenly the future version of you busts through your wall and says “I’m you from the future. There’s no time to explain. Follow me to . .” and then suddenly he’s grabbed by a giant monster and drops his gun. You pick up his gun and chase after him. As you progress through the game there are a few plot development moments, but they are very incoherent and don’t necessarily link the game together as one sensible story. Even when you beat the first boss and are shown a cutscene, it kind of doesn’t make sense how the game progresses forward. It just does and you continue on your way. The dialog is great however. Each stage starts with the future version of you saying something hilarious as a means to complain about his plight of being dragged away by a giant alien monster. You will chuckle at the beginning of just about every stage. You do kind of care about what’s going on as you play through the game but because of its lackluster presentation and sparse delivery, the plot won’t be the reason you keep playing. Like with just about everything else in this game, the writing is well done for what it is but sorely lacking in volume/depth.
The replay value is dependent on how much you like collecting. There are 10 trophies, eight of which are performance based challenges in specific locations. The other two are for collecting hats, which are only used to change the visual appearance of your character. These can be found randomly distributed throughout the game. Each world has a certain, but not equal, number of hats which is noted in the HUB world. What is really nice about hat collecting is that you can grab the collectible and die without losing it. But unless you actually care about collecting all the hats and earning those eight other trophies which altogether might take you an hour of extra play, there’s really no reason to replay this game once you’ve beaten it. The levels don’t change and there’s little to no alteration in how you beat them other than the occasional hidden alternate route. But the outcomes are all the same. This game will take you anywhere from two to six hours depending on if you want to collect or not. While it is fun, I could never condone the $15 price tag. It just won’t hold your attention long enough to warrant that much money.
No Time To Explain is a fun and mechanically sound experience, but everything else about it is average at best for a price that’s just too high. If you can’t get it for $5 or less then I have to recommend that you pass. And honestly I predict this being a PlayStation Plus freebie in the not too distant future. Definitely not a bad game, but you can do much better with that much cash.
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