REVIEW: Time Surfer [iOS]
Title: Time Surfer
Tagline: A fantastical cross between Tiny Wings & Braid
Family Friendly: Click here for more information.
The mark of a truly good mobile game is that you can’t stop playing. I mean, you can, but you keep coming back.
Coming back is actually a very important part of Time Surfer, which asks a very important question: What if you could go back in time and save yourself from dying?
Deep. I know.
Well, before you go getting all excited about some heady, philosophical narrative…know that you’re actually getting quick-reflex twitch gameplay set in outer space.
Exploding with bright, retro sprites, a blazing chiptune track and fast, addictive gameplay, Time Surfer has some fun with the endless running genre.
Instead of running, you’re surfing space dunes. Instead of dodging ever-approaching death only from the right, you’ll also have to keep moving, lest the End of the Universe (a fiery wall of flaming doom-fire) sneak up and extra-crispify your ass from behind. Instead of the old one-and-done, die-and-you’re-out formula, you get a rewind button. Sure, your “time shifting” meter will eventually run out…but if end up careening down a chasm into oblivion or eating a bunch of space spikes, just tap the left side of your screen to rewind the action and dip your surfer downward to avoid it and continue on.
Do-overs! Changing history! Woohoo!
Time Surfer is fun and visually attractive (the stylized “retro” art gives you warm, fuzzy 8-bit nostalgia). If you dig that 80s/90s design aesthetic, know that even just the game’s logo looks like a Lisa Frank nightmare, in the best possible way.
It’s challenging and tough to ignore. It’s always there, waiting for another run. You’ll find the expected assortment of wacky, helpful power-ups (and cute pets)…
…in-game currency (based around collecting Cake – there are actual, flying slices of cake out there)…
…and list of missions to check off. Should be familiar if you’ve played ANY MOBILE GAME EVER. Still, Time Surfer is well-done, fun and has enough original twists that it doesn’t feel like an endless running also-ran.
With a style and spirit of its own, Time Surfer seems like a relatively simple, approachable experience. It has a sense of humor. There are refs to popular memes. There’s silly flavor text. You get the feeling that this game might actually want to be friends.
That’s when you discover…Hell Zone.
Hell Zone is exactly as nasty and mean as you think it’d be. Spikes and asteroids and crazy dips in the dunes, all set to an imposing, alternate color palette that puts out a cigarette on its forked tongue and screams, “ENOUGH BULLSHIT! LET’S GO, BITCHES!”
Seriously, it’s tough. You’ll be using your rewind feature frequently, avoiding obstacles and threading the needle through unpredictable, fast-approaching towers of spikes with only the most narrow of openings.
Suddenly, you’ll look back at the “normal” mode and realize that, as much as it may have been kicking your ass…it was nothing.
This is where the inner masochist in all ACTUAL, hardcore gamers emerges from the depths of your cold, black heart.
This is where you can no longer roll your eyes and snort at the notion that Time Surfer is just some run-of-the-mill, CASUAL mobile gaming experience.
Give it a try.
(Also, you’ll enjoy it.)
So, grab a board, cash in some Cake for the perfect Time Surfer sprite and your favorite color-trail (“Flair” – and, yes, of COURSE you can buy a Double Rainbow) to follow its every move…and go diving through the wavy, colorful terrains that await you in some far-off part of the retroverse. There are gems to collect. There’s time to be traveled. There are alien brains to bash in with the bottom of your board. There are speed strips to send you hurtling through space at break-neck speed. There’s a leaderboard to dominate. There are buttons you can use to annoy your friends on Facebook and Twitter.
The world’s ending, man! Grab a board!
There’s a damn good time to be had, here. And you’ll get it for less than a buck. Long live mobile gaming.
- Controls well, physics & momentum are sound
- Retro style
- Two modes of play/levels of difficulty
- Tons of fun missions and unlockables
- Sense of humor
- Hell Zone is a little mean, sometimes…
- Maybe I suck, but I wish refilling the time rewind bar were easier. It’s a key feature that makes the game truly unique, but…when it’s gone, it’s painfully gone.
Time Surfer is available on the App Store for US$0.99/£0.69/€0.89!
Rated 9+ for “infrequent/mild cartoon or fantasy violence.” Also, might be a bit tough for the littles. Your bigger boys and girls should be fine, though.
[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received a review code for this game. No contact with the developers or anyone else involved with the creation or marketing of Time Surfer.]