I think that everyone, if only for a second, has considered the possibilities of traveling through time: chilling with mammoths in the ice age, cracking a joke or two with Mona Lisa, dialing up Alexander Graham Bell, taking one or two small steps with Neil Armstrong... Sadly, we don't have the budget for a TARDIS, an Epoch or even a DeLorean, and even if we did, we'd probably end up having to deal with those friggin' morlocks. So it's up to State Of Play to offer us the next best thing: the fast-paced reflex-testing microgame-fest that is A Short History Of The World.
A Short History of the World plays like many of its WarioWare-styled bretheren. Controlled entirely with the mouse, you are presented with a historical scenario and a task to accomplish in a set amount of time. You must "drag, draw, chop, rotate and shoot" to the satisfaction of the game and before time runs out, or else you will lose one of your four lives. The quicker you are, the more points you score and it's on to the next game, a little bit forward in time. Checkpoints are available every ten levels, and there are thirty-six games to complete. After you finish, you are given one of four ranks, depending on your score. Now get going! Time's a wasting!
A Short History of the World plays well, despite a few snags. Granted, most of those concerns might stem from my side of the screen: A few of the minigames, especially ones requiring tracing of some sort, felt unforgiving to my uncoordinated hand-eye. The fact that the microgames are always chronological means that you are given repeated chance to practice, but also cannot avoid a situation that repeatedly causes a life-losing. That said, while the lack of randomization may seem antithetical to the concept of the microgame, I liked Short History's not-quite-historically accurate 36-stop trip to the present. It's not quite a plot, but it does give it a sense of progression that other games of its genre lack.
While the mechanics may be too finicky for some tastes, there's a lot to like about A Short History of the World. The premise is engagingly brilliant, and the artistic styling of the levels, while appropriately varied, is beautiful. You'll make ample use of the checkpoints throughout, but still persevere on to the present day. This is a game that's made for passing time.