Puzzling platformers have never really been in short supply, but that didn’t make the announcement of Time Loader any less interesting at the back end of 2020. Promising a time-travelling robot adventure, with throwbacks to the things many of us enjoyed in the ‘90s, it was enough to capture my attention. Now that Time Loader has arrived on Xbox, have the developers Flazm created a timeless classic, or could they do with a time machine to make it better?
In the main, Time Loader doesn’t do too much wrong. It just lacks the wow factor and fails to deliver enough of those eureka moments often found in puzzlers, which would make it a greater experience.
Time Loader begins with memories of the summer of ‘95, which is when a young boy named Adam was involved in a serious fall whilst playing up in his treehouse. The accident left Adam wheelchair bound and since then, he’s been focused on creating a time travel device in the hopes of changing his fate somehow. This device is small, but is fortunately big enough for a robotic invention of his to use. You’ll play the role of the robot and go back in time to intervene in the events leading to the accident.
The narrative definitely has decent sci-fi elements to it, with the Wall-E style robot doing well as the focal point and the butterfly effect coming into play – the premise of interfering with the past is fairly interesting. In fact, without spoiling it, the effect that the meddling has on the environments you’ll traverse within the family home actually allows for locations to be reused. It’s good to see throwbacks to yesteryear littered around the house too; like a Game Boy, a DeLorean toy, the remnants of a Dungeons & Dragons session, and more. In terms of design, there are a fair amount of interesting rooms to admire, and the setting is then enhanced by the non-intrusive BGM.
In regards to the gameplay, you’ll have to navigate the rather charming robot across various household obstacles. It’s absolutely full of obstacles throughout the three Acts of the story, as you make your way upstairs, downstairs, and through the greenhouse. Most of the manoeuvring mainly consists of using the tyres to climb small inclines and a jump mechanism available for greater heights. Expect to be driving over dining room tables, hopping up shelves and even scaling a cat tower. There’s also a bit of swinging to partake in, enabling you to traverse gaps when necessary.
The puzzling aspect essentially has you dragging objects to specific places and throwing them to cause a chain of events to aid your progress. Don’t hope for anything too mentally taxing; Time Loader is a game that’s quite keen on pointing you in the right direction and the problems to solve require little thought. The only difficult part is timing the jumps and getting the most out of the robot’s upgrades, which are found regularly. Eventually you’ll gain access to a harpoon that’s similar to a grapple hook and this comes in very handy for an exhilarating sequence.
Given how Time Loader can be completed in merely a couple of hours, one would hope for some kind of replayability factor. There are two ways to extend its lifespan: go searching for secret symbols hidden on objects which are off the beaten track, or alter a few of the optional time meddling decisions you have made. It’s easy to jump back in to certain sections of each act, but whether it’s worth doing is another matter. The purpose is to achieve one of the other three endings, however the final scenes are so short I don’t reckon you will feel the need to see them.
It’s worth noting that there are a handful of issues present and ready to hinder your enjoyment slightly. As is the nature of many physics-oriented games, the physics have a tendency to go awry. Grabbing objects to move them could occasionally lead to erratic behaviour and the inability to actually move it. Additionally, items thrown or dropped have a slight tendency to fall through whatever is beneath them, leaving it unreachable. A reload from the most recent checkpoint does the trick, but it’s still annoying.
Overall, Time Loader is a good story-driven platforming adventure that does interesting things involving time travel and creates a very likeable robot. There’s certainly nostalgia to be had from the well-designed environments and the little nods to pop culture. Furthermore, the platforming is challenging enough, however the puzzling just falls short of feeling rewarding upon solving problems. I do believe it’s a tad too short in length, given the price at launch being over a tenner.
If it’s on sale, then I’d not hesitate to recommend a purchase of Time Loader. Otherwise, you may only wish to pay up the fee should you be really interested in time travel.
Travel back in time with Time Loader now available on the Xbox Store