Quality metroidvania’s have been hitting the Switch by the masses this past year. And while few hit it big like Dead Cells and Hollow Knight, many are wondering what the next game might be that is worth our pennies. Well Kickstarter game Timespinner spinned its reel and is now finally available for us to enjoy in our very own time manipulation story.
Via a 2D sidescrolling adventure we follow Lunais, who was trained as a young girl to become a Time Messenger and is out for revenge on the evil emperor. In the opening we see how the empire kills her mother and destroys the age-old Timespinner, with which the Time Messengers can travel between different timelines. Lunais ends in an unknown world in an unknown timeline and will have to fight her way back to get revenge. The story and the world are clarified by the cleverly written characters, but especially by the extensive lore-dumps, and know enough diversity to remain interesting.
In true Metroidvania style, Lunais is moving further and further into the two connected worlds thanks to new abilities that she unlocks. The nice thing about Timespinner is that they are not overly powerful, but more modest. A double jump, an underwater mask, a dash … it never gives you the feeling of being supreme, but rather small steps forward. Almost nowhere is it clear what force is required, which makes Timespinner a little more subtle with the abilities than similar games in the genre. You will also have to make frequent use of its ability to stop time. Not only is this a tactical element, in which you can avoid difficult attacks, but Timespinner also uses this frequently for puzzle elements. Every enemy and projectile becomes a usable platform as soon as time stands still, the downside is that this ability (certainly in the beginning) is used up quite quickly.
Her greatest strength is switching between the present and the past, which means that the adventurer has to come out in you if you want to find out all the nooks and crannies the game has to offer. Did you find a secret room with a chest in it in the future? Then you can forget that you can pick it up in the past. The storyline also regularly sends you both ways, so that – again – the variation and the pace remain. You recognize parts of the world, but the two are so different that researching them is a pleasure.
With the combat system, Timespinner gives you a versatile system where you can use removable combat orbs. These can be fireballs dancing around you and which you can hit with, others shoot electric rays or form a giant sword. In three sets of two you can merge the most diverse orbs or go all-in on a certain build. I kept two of the same orbs paired to keep the attack pattern the same. Still, you can go pretty crazy with this and keep trying new combinations.
Timespinner looks great in a mix of 16- and early 32-bit graphics. Lunais fights against large, detailed bosses in a world with different, clearly recognizable areas that stand out. Sprite work from the enemies and the characters look solid and crisp. Towards the end of the game I would even call it quite disturbing. Its musical setting also evokes a lot of nostalgia for games of the 16-bit era. At times it is exciting and other times it manages to create a mysterious vibe. The whole thing reminded me regularly of Symphony of the Night, mixed with the more ambient themes of David Wise.
Is there nothing to criticize? Yes, there unfortunately is. First of all, the game may be a bit unclear in what is required of you and it has happened several times that I just kept going over the map endlessly to see if something had changed somewhere. In addition, the game has sidequests, but does not name them that way. For example, I thought for an hour or two that the beautifully flowing story was filled with boring fetch quests. Really, like older MMO’s style: Kill five beasts, find three mushrooms, that kind of stuff. Only when I got back on the right path did the so positive feeling of the opening of Timespinner return. Given that Lunais also gains experience from every fight, it turned out that there was a considerable period in which I felt a bit overrun with regard to my opponents. Fortunately, Timespinner tightens the thumbscrews firmly towards the end of the game.
Timespinner combines Metroidvania with the time traveling of Chrono Trigger to create a very solid action platformer with light RPG elements. The set-up of combat and the stopping of time make the game feel unique, although for the well-written story you have to look up the many lore-dumps that the game presents to you. It is not always clear where to go and the game has the ugliest of fetch quests, but the overall experience of Timespinner cannot ruin it. With a great art style and equally good music, Timespinner is a wonderful dessert after our summer of beautiful, similar games.
Timespinner offers a unique metroidvania in a time travelling setting that will tell you a story worth remembering.