Title: No Time To Explain
Platforms: PC, Xbox One (reviewed on)
Release Date: Out now
Price: On the Xbox Live Store, it’s £12. On Steam, it’s £11
Tagline: Lasers, aliens, and lolrandom humour
Family Friendly: Click here to read more.
Verdict: If you’re buying it for a 12 year old, go right ahead.
I knew right from the start that this game and I weren’t going to be friends. No Time To Explain is a platformer game that takes cues from all the old classics from the PS1 era, which would have been fine on its own, if not for the crushingly frustrating save mechanics, cheap one hit kills, and a sense of humour that only a twelve year old boy would ever find funny.
The premise of this is really, really simple. You’re chasing after “you from the future,” to save him from whatever horrible monster has kidnapped him this level (with huge helpings of fourth wall breaking humour), through an obstacle course that gets more and more frustrating the further along you go, and there’s not really much more to the plot than that. Your main method of movement is the laser, which you can use to bounce off walls, be elevated to higher ledges, drop you into water, scoot along the stage, and so on and so forth. You can run around normally, but it’s much more faster and effective to use your shiny new toy.
No Time To Explain does one thing very well, and that is varying its levels. Each time, you’ll get given a new way to traverse round the stage and stop you getting to the portal – you’ll start off with just the laser, then move on to burning through the earth to get to the portal, to landing in little pools of water to slow to a stop, then propel your jet beam higher, to firing a sonic boom that will launch you several metres away. Either that, or you’ll get more obstacles. Spikes to impale you, flames that will only be your friends for so long, and tons of pitfalls and drops that will boot you back to a spawn point. No two levels are the same, and it’s a really nice touch, if there was a proper save mechanic. While the respawning worked pretty well, dumping you back to the nearest checkpoint (usually at the start, then halfway, maybe one right before the portal) there was simply no way to save your game. At all.
This really hurts the game, considering the levels are pretty long, so if you get all the way to the boss at the end, then quit, you’ll have to redo about four more stages to even get to that point again. And considering the difficulty spikes the further along the stage you go, this did nothing to help my blood pressure. There’s not even an autosave; the game just randomly dumps you about four levels back, and lets you get on with it. It works the same way with the boss fights; they’re pretty simple and require learning a new trick each time, which is fun and stops them getting stale, by my God is it frustrating when you’ve spent half an hour fighting the boss, then get one hit killed.
This is the other part of the game I really, really couldn’t get on with. Death is cheap, easy, and unfair, most of the time. I know the obstacles are there for a reason, but do I really need to die if I fly too far to the corner of the stage? If I get wedged between two random bits of debris and can’t move any more? If the laser decides to angle itself the slightest bit to the left, and I end up flying across the stage and into the monster? My personal favourite is where I ended up respawning after losing a life during a boss battle, only to promptly die again straight away, because the spawn point was directly underneath the monster. I know this is a call back to the days of the early 2000s, where platforming games were more of a mainstream thing, but from what I remember of Crash Bandicoot, that let you gain more lives, and NTTE would have been markedly improved if it had done the same. Otherwise it just deteriorates into an endless series of frustrating loops as the monster kills you, over and over, and it’s taken you two hours to kill one boss.
Apart from an annoying amount of glitches (getting wedged between obstacles, the game freezing randomly, and levels straight up not loading), my biggest problem was the controls. You can either use the L1/R1 buttons to move, or the two joysticks, the right one being the one that controls the laser. I don’t understand why both are usable at the same time – I often ended up trying to run or jump to an obstacle during boss fights, only to accidentally activate the laser and get myself killed, again. Similarly, the way you actually control the laser is weird – you have to adjust the angle to get to specific places, and it almost seems to lock in place if you’re pointing it up/right/left/down. Trying to move it to one exact spot is a lot more difficult than it should be, and really hurts when it comes to the boss battles.
The final thing I wanted to point out was the weird discrepancy between the target market and the age rating. NTTE is rated 16 for “realistic looking violence,” according to PEGI’s website, but apart from the odd blood splatter, it’s really no worse than Saturday morning cartoons. That being said, this game is pretty obviously aimed at preteens who are still in the “lol I’m so random,” phase, and for the likes of those who watch obnoxious Let’s Plays. It genuinely isn’t funny for longer than ten minutes, and becomes annoying very, very quickly, and I’m baffled as to why this warranted a 16 rating, when its target audience who will actually enjoy the game, is definitely nowhere near that.
So, in summary:
- Clever and fresh upgrades for each level
- Plays like an old fashioned platformer
- Cute music
- Frustrating, cheap one hit kills in boss fights with no ability to save beforehand
- Dodgy controls
- Irritating narrative
I addressed this above; it’s a 16, and I’m not really sure why. If you watch the trailer, and look at the shark screenshot, that’s about as much blood as I came across. Decide for yourselves if your kids can handle it.
Thank you to the devs and publishers for providing me with a review code!