(Caution Moderate Spoilers)
Timespinner is a 2D platformer developed by Lunar Ray Games and Published by Chucklefish. The game exudes the best qualities of the metroidvania style of platformer and is a can’t miss for old school gamers and lovers of platformers alike. Timespinner is available on PC, PS4, and PSVita.
Timespinners utilizes the tried and tested metroidvania formula and does such a great job, it makes you wonder why there aren’t more games of this caliber out today. It actually mirrors Symphony of the Night gameplay in many aspects up to and including backdashes, relics, familiars and exploration mechanics. That’s not to say Timespinner isn’t its own game as it has enough unique properties to make it stand out in the genre.
The primary mode is of course, combat platforming, influenced and inspired heavily by the likes of Castlevania. Instead of the usual arsenal however, our protagonist Lunais utilizes an assortment of magic orbs which level over the course of the game via combat and other means. Each orb has its own unique properties such as speed, elemental attacks, or taking the form of brute force weapons such as swords or hammers.
Orb setup is perhaps one of the most unique features to Timespinner. You can equip two of the same orb or mix them up to exploit multiple enemy weaknesses. Since each orbs range and frame execution are different, the various configurations will require a bit of skill to pull off effectively.
Lunais can also use hard hitting magic attacks and alter her primary attacks via alchemy and by equipping various equipment items. One of the more interesting aspects of combat in Timespinner is the game gives you three load-out slots which you can switch on the fly. This allows for some interesting combinations and combo opportunities for the more savvy gamers out there.
“Timespinner, it’s about time…spinning.”-a person sadly playing on the Chrono Trigger advertisement from his youth
Perhaps the most principle of her abilities is the power to freeze time. While it can only be used in limited capacities, there really isn’t much call to use it for anyone versed in the ways of the platformer. Casual players may rely on it more but it is still fairly balanced for the game setting. Perhaps the most unique aspect of this power however is that enemies suspended by this state can be utilized as platforms to jump off of. This results in an extra layer of approach as some areas and secrets can be accessed early and while this aspect is not unique to Timespinner it pulls it off without a hitch.
All of these abilities and various powered relics will be required to make it to the end. However there are other factors, such as side quests and even scripted events which also come into play. For instance, I was wearing a full version of an outfit and an NPC caught interest in it and offered to trade. There are also multiple endings to pursue based on in game choices made late into the game in addition to a completely optional end game stage.
A typical playthrough will last between roughly 6-10 hours for those competent in the genre who want to collect most of the game’s relics, quests, items, and lore. A new game+ mode along various extra hard difficulty modes exist to test your skill if you find the game enjoyable enough. Nightmare mode definitely puts a cap on how much damage you’ll be taking and reduces your save points. But if you still find that’s too easy an advanced version of Nightmare mode exists that disables certain leveling aspects of the game.
The central story revolves around Lunais, a member of a nomadic clan who raise up Time Messengers. Their people are persecuted by the Lachiem Empire for their ability to manipulate time through the device known as the Timespinner. The Time Messenger’s abilities come at the cost of being erased from their previous timeline. As such, there is usually only one active person of influence at a time.
Lunais’ narrative begins as the Lachiem attack her settlement and murder her mother. Lunais escapes through the Timespinner device to find herself in an unknown time on an unknown planet. She eventually finds herself in the middle of a brewing war between Lachiem and their outcast prisoners in a historic war. The remainder of the game revolves around Lunais attempting to alter her timeline by manipulating the events of the war by utilizing the past and present as catalysts. Although there are side quests, they offer little relevance to the main story, can be tedious, and are mostly “fetch-quest” oriented.
Timespinner controls similarly to any other equivalent title and much from Symphony of the Night. It even “borrows” commands such as the back-step and double jump. It does feature exclusive commands that are less found in other titles such as an unlimited speed dash and unlimited vertical upwards thrust. Mobility maneuvers such as these will help supplement your particular combat configuration as you mix and match the orbs which suit you.
A well pixeled and lush 32-bit-esque world await you in Timespinner. Backgrounds are well detailed for a platformer, which really helps sell the scene in almost every stage. The animations that accompany the gameplay are apt for a retro-inspired title and smooth, especially when it comes to Lunais’ combat. Many of the effects, and in particular the spells, have a great amount of detail poured into them. Overall, the graphical homage to the retro platformer is so well done that you almost expect to see the graphical glitches that came with the era, but thankfully that isn’t the case.
The sound in Timespinners ranged between average and great. Some effects were simply run of the mill. But others such as the demon familiar using magic or Lunais using the Djinn Inferno spell were fantastic. I think the most important aspect though is that the sounds all fit the bill for the game, especially considering the way they mesh with the graphics and music.
Music in Timespinner claimed to be one of an early PS1 soundtrack and in that they did not disappoint. It feels like a hybrid inspiration of soundtracks from games such as Castlevania Symphony of the Night, Star Ocean, and Valkyrie Profile; perhaps with just a dash of Chrono Trigger. Composed by Jeff Ball, the game never fails to set a catchy tune to kill creatures to. The music had enough variations composition so each time period and setting felt genuinely integrated rather than just having a slapped on music track. Songs like ‘Memories of Tears’ or ‘Distant Recollections’ will make you want to pause to sit in its contemplative ambiance while ‘Defiance’ makes you feel like your fighting with your own personal orchestral ensemble to back you up. Enough really can’t be said about the musical integration in Timespinner, not only was it masterfully scored but it was artistically integrated with the game as well.
When all is said and done Timespinners is worth the time of anyone looking to travel back to the 90s era of high-calibur platforming. The excellent blending of music, setting, and sound weave an immersible world even if the trip is a short one. My chief complaint is that even with multiple modes, the game is still too short. But if games like Castlevania, Metroid, or Shantae have left a gaping hole in your timeline, then Timespinners will definitely fill the void for a…time.