After playing the Castlevania inspired “Curse of the Moon”, I got the hankering for a metroidvania game as I’m still waiting for the main game; Ritual of the Night. On one of my strolls through Youtube I found a list of upcoming indie metroidvanias, and ever since I had been waiting for the game that looked by far the best of the bunch; Timespinner by Bodie of Lunar Ray Games.
Looking a lot like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Dawn of Sorrow I was intrigued by how authentically retro the game looked. “Timespinner really looks like a genuine older game” I thought in a sea of retro inspired indie games who clearly have something in their graphics and sound that exposes them as new games. Whether that is a good thing or not is up to you but anyway….
After playing through the game once I have found Timespinner to be a new cornerstone in the genre, right next to Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night.
The gameplay is fantastic, the graphics are extremely cool and autentically retro, the music is great and Timespinner has a deep interesting story to boot!
After the opening sequence of the game you are dropped in a beautiful futuristic world of great technology but also of a gloomy and tired nature. This is where the metroidvania gameplay becomes very familiar as you start exploring, killing enemies for exp and looting chests for equipment. You equip armors and trinkets like usual but for attacking you use orbs much like the the DS Castlevania game Order of Ecclesia. You have 2 orbs equipped at a time that attack in succession so you can mix and match orbs however you want. There is a great number of orbs in the game, some perhaps obviously better than others but this still adds great variety in gameplay. What orb is better than the other might be just a preference thing but you also level the orbs based on how much you use them so that might reinforce your bias even more.
In addition you get very strong charge abilities for each orb that use magic points and you get a passive ability so there is plenty of stuff to try out here.
And if all that isn’t enough you can stop time like in the gif above. Enemies cannot take damage in this state and you can only do it for a limited time but it is very clever and fun to use to avoid enemy attacks or for just strategic placement.
Stopping time is also used in exploring as you can jump on enemies who are frozen in time but I feel like this is not used to it’s full potential, there could have been some more interesting puzzles besides jumping on enemies.
What is much more interesting is that early on you will be able to travel to the past, and what you do in the past map affects how the map in the present is. There are only two time periods (past map and present map) but there is this Chrono Trigger-ish feeling about how they interact. Burning vines in the past make otherwise vine blocked passages available in the present, and really, part of the plot in the game is to undermine the power of the empire in the present by fucking them in the past.
The map isn’t very big and to be honest the game is pretty short but somehow I felt that was OK. It is just enough to convey the story, and like this the pacing of the game is great and at least the game never gets boring. I completed the game in 7-8 hours, went up to 9 to get some upgrades and side quests. For 20$ you might think this is too little but Timespinner is so compact and such a complete experience I doubt you will regret it. Besides the game has a nightmare mode, trophies and a new game plus so you can easily get 20 hours out of this game if you like it like me. I just wish the game had a dedicated map button so I wouldn’t always have to access it from the menu…
One thing that keeps Timespinner this short and sweet is the fact that the game is only available in normal mode for your first playthrough and that mode is pretty easy. You will die a few times and some bosses might take 2 or 3 tries but honestly you could just stack up on health items and take as many hits as you want. This was also a fault with Symphony of the Night, a fault that Super Metroid avoided. Unlike Symphony of the Night however, Timespinner has no cryptic puzzles so you never really should get stuck not knowing what to do or where to go.
Nightmare mode however will challenge your skills to the fullest so at least the option is there later on.
I already mentioned this but I cannot stress enough how authentically retro the game looks. Games like Celeste look so fake retro to me and even games like Shovel Knight do not look this authentic. Timespinner nails this and looks genuinely 32-bit like the games it is inspired by. The sprites and gorgeous backgrounds feel absolutely perfect in both future and past eras.
The music is also fantastic, it might not be as catchy as in many action games but it accurately reflects the atmosphere and sets the tone with beautiful compositions.
In fact, combining graphics, music and story, Lunar Ray Games have created an amazing world around Timespinner. I know I haven’t talked about the story much but how it unravels, all the characters you meet and multiple endings kept me emotionally invested the whole time and with the beautiful aesthetics… I was blown away…
Overall Timespinner is a pretty conventional metroidvania game, but the game does everything the genre is known for extremely well.
The gameplay is solid and the controls feel extra smooth. Exploring is fun and rewarding and bosses are fun, clever and look amazing.
The world of Timespinner is very interesting with a beautiful combination of story, music and graphics that is rarely seen in games such as these.
The game is a bit short but the pacing is really good and there are extra game modes, difficulty levels and trophies/achievements for those who really like the game like me.
Like I said, I have found Timespinner to be a new cornerstone in the genre, right next to the all time greats such as Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night.
*The Vita version suffers from some slowdown I hope this will be fixed soon.
Lasting appeal 8,5
Is it fun? 9,5
Overall 9,2 an amazing game!
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