If you're a fan of time travel theory, or if you enjoyed any of the amazing time-based games (Timebot, Time Raider, and Super Earth Defense, in particular) from our replay-themed game competition last summer, then you'll love Chronotron, developed by Scarybug Games. Chronotron is a platform puzzler with a really innovative (and addictive) twist. Here's the angle: you play the role of a clunky-looking robot who's apparently the pilot of a time travel machine. This "time pod" runs into trouble, sustains damage and needs to be repaired. Thus in each level, you need to snatch up one of your missing "time circuits" so your gizmo can eventually be repaired. Unfortunately for your robot, the levels are designed in a way that makes it impossible for you to collect the pieces on your own. However, since your time pod is still semi-functional, you can just go back in time to help yourself!
While it's true that time travel or a "rewind" concept isn't necessarily cutting-edge anymore when it comes to casual games, the concept is refined—and executed almost to perfection—in Chronotron. First off, the controls couldn't be simpler. Move, crouch and jump with either the [arrow] keys (or the [WASD] configuration), and use [space] to interact with your time machine. Traveling back in time is the key to completing each level, since the levels are designed to require two, three or four (and even more) copies of yourself to work in unison, collectively allowing you to reach your goal and return to your machine. For example, in the first level, your circuit board is on a platform that's too high for you to reach. There's a pad nearby that you can stand on, which raises an elevator, allowing you to reach the circuit. However, the second you step off the pad, the elevator lowers back down. Hence, you need someone to stand on it for you. Why not yourself? Just stand on the pad for a few seconds, then go back and enter your time pod. A duplicate copy of yourself pops out, mimicking your previous actions exactly. Since the "previous you" is standing on the pad, the "current you" (always marked by a green arrow above your head) is free to hop on the elevator and retrieve the circuit board.
As you'd expect, the levels progress and the puzzles become increasingly more difficult, so you'll need to re-enter your time pod numerous times in order to accomplish certain tasks. The game requires a lot of lateral thinking; sometimes you'll be able to beat a level by thinking a few moves ahead, while other times trial-and-error becomes a necessity. As if that weren't enough, you've got time paradoxes to worry about, which is where the game really gets interesting. You can't beat a level unless all the past copies of yourself are able to re-enter the time pod. If one of the past versions of you gets stuck in a pit or trapped in a room they can't get out of (thereby not making it back to the time pod), then you wouldn't have been able to make it back to the future. And, as the game puts it, if you couldn't make it back to the future, you wouldn't be able to prevent your past self from making it back to the time pod.
Analysis: Chronotron is a game that draws you in, inspiring you to keep beating level after level just to prove to yourself that you can. As mentioned, the execution of the time-travel gameplay mechanic is great, but not perfect. There are some complaints about past selves not reacting exactly the way they did (for example, missing a jump that was previously successful), although this reviewer hasn't encountered that problem yet. On the flipside, the developers give you the chance to "rewind" your actions (pretty much like an "undo" on your PC), accessible by pushing [R] or using a neat little display at the bottom of the screen resembling the controls of a CD player. You can also restart the level, pause, mute the music (a funky sci-fi beat) or even hit "eject" to return to the main menu. Thirty-five levels and five bonus levels are available via the menu, as well as a walkthrough and your basic game settings. Bottom line: Chronotron is a game that's just as interesting as it is fun, which makes a great combination. If you enjoy platformers, puzzle or logic games at all, this is one game you don't want to miss.
Cheers to Joe for sending this one in! =)