Many of the games from our "replay" competition presented us with the challenge of playing through a level multiple times with multiple (or split) characters, and most of these games did receive high marks for their theme interpretation and originality. However, one game in particular did a fantastic job of wringing this mechanism for all it was worth. Not only that, it managed to dress itself up with some spiffy animation and graphics, set the perfect mood with its inviting music, and even squeeze in a little wry humor. Yes, that game is none other than Rey Gazu's Time Raider.
After watching (or skipping) the introduction, you'll find yourself along with two of your time clones in a Tomb Raider type temple fraught with poison-dart shooters, giant flames, and other booby traps. You don't have any explicit instructions, so if you're the type who likes to figure things out on your own, please skip down to the Analysis section.
Begin by selecting a Time Raider to control. Use the arrow keys to move, jump, and duck, and the spacebar to interact with items in the game. When you inevitably reach a point where you can't go any further (either you're blocked or you're dead), click the Time Rune in the lower right corner to rewind and start again. Now select a different Time Raider. Note that the first Raider you selected proceeds to do exactly the same things you told him to! This is very important, because most of the booby traps must be deactivated on a different level than the one they are on. Additionally, Time Raiders on one level can set off booby traps on another, so you'll have to use all three collaboratively to make sure than they all survive their passage through the temple.
The Time Rune undoes all, which is good and bad. It's good because if you inadvertently kill one of your clones, no biggie. Just keep on playing with your current Raider until you've done all you need to with him for the moment. It's bad because when (not if) you need to replay a certain Raider, you'll have to remember and repeat any weird little timing quirks you might have had from the first time 'round, or else risk killing one of the other Raiders prematurely.
If you're having trouble grasping the concept, it might help to think of each Time Raider as a robot that you "program" by pressing arrow keys. Every time you play a different Raider, the other ones will execute the last program you gave them, even if there are now new obstacles in the way. When you go back and replay a Raider, you overwrite the program you had before with a new - and hopefully more complete - one.
A hint for those who are having trouble getting the timing down: before you do anything that requires precise timing, send a signal to the other Raiders by ducking or pressing spacebar to give a little wave.
Analysis: I personally really dig anything that has to do with chaotic, recursive cause-and-effect, from the books I read to the movies I enjoy to games like Time Raider, where every action has a reaction somewhere. I also have a soft spot for narratives where the characters all have to play some part in order to reach their goal, where failure would result if even one member were missing. So it's natural that I should enjoy Time Raider as much as I did.
But it's not just these elements that make Time Raider so compelling. In truth, it's a multifaceted game, part puzzle, part timing, and part reflex, where no one of these parts dominates over the other two. As a result, it has a broad appeal to fans of different types of games. It also did a fantastic job of incorporating the Replay theme, not simply going through the level again, but making each replay interact with previous replays, in ways that are both constructive and destructive, unlocking new areas but also introducing new dangers.
Intriguing, complex, well-planned, fascinating, fun; yes, all of these. But not perfect. Particularly flawed was the rope-swing puzzle. First, the behavior of the bottom Time Raider while riding the rope was not intuitive. I had to play through a few times just to figure out how the interaction between character and rope really worked. Even when you think you have gotten the hang of it, the timing is so critical that you can easily fail to cross the gap if your middle Raider starts lowering the rope a split second too soon or too late. It was a nice idea, but probably should have lowered a bridge instead, or made the bottom Raider actually grab onto the rope as it swung. Also, the punishment for putting in the wrong statue code was rather harsh, making you replay nearly the entire level. My final complaint is that to this day I still am not sure exactly what deactivates the bubble-blowing lizard thingy, though I have my suspicions.
Still, Time Raider presents a mind-bending gameplay experience, and we look forward to seeing more from Rey in the future!
dancemonkey - Wow, what a truly amazing game. This combines all of my favorite childhood "let's pretend" concepts into one tricky game; Indiana Jones, Pitfall, alternate time-lines. The only thing it was missing was pirates. It was rough around the edges for sure, but my main complaint was having to constantly go all the way back to the beginning. I mean I know the theme was "replay" (brilliant implementation here, by the way, did I mention that?), but did we have to replay from the beginning? Perhaps instead a "rewind" button, and you could then hit "play" and start from wherever you liked. All in all, a wonderful game that could stand a little refinement and perhaps even sequels.
Jay - It is remarkable what Rey Gazu accomplished in a very short period of time. He told me the idea came to him after reading a discussion about the replay theme in the competition announcement thread, which left him very little time for: creating the animation and cut scenes, designing the levels, and putting it all together. The character animation was produced using rotoscoping techniques, and he shared with us a video showing highlights of the process. That alone could have consumed a significant portion of the time available for development.
And though some things were rushed and rough around the edges, overall Time Raider is a highly ambitious effort and one that will likely make your jaw drop in amazement once you realize how to play. I hear that Rey may be working on polishing up the entry for a re-release sometime soon, and he is even working on a level editor to create your own time-bending games with. Truly exceptional work, Gazu!