Timelie makes you wish you could manipulate time, so you can gorge on all the games in your Steam library without having to watch the reflections of the sun rising and setting as it hits your monitor or that thing that outside people do that reminds you to eat, drink and sleep.
It’s not that this is such a demanding game as you can comfortably take your time with it, trying out your options to get from one point to another in this isometric puzzle game where you manipulate time.
The time factor comes from getting lost in the worlds that the protagonist occupies, and of course, the actual problem-solving. Timelie is relatively minimal in its design approach, but for that reason, it’s beautiful. I wouldn’t object to a VR iteration of this game as the presentation is just so elegant.
Timelie PC review
First impressions usually stem on how something looks, then after you’re wowed or disappointed you either moan about the controls or forget what they are because they’re so intuitive. Timelie has a simple approach as you direct the characters to various points on a map without being seen.
Enemies have a visible cone of vision that if you cross it, you’ll get caught and immediately end the stage. So, you move to various points to stay hidden or away from the enemy paths, flicking several switches to open doors and escape to the next area.
But the key mechanic here is time, so what you do is experiment with various options until you get a clear run at it. At the bottom of the screen is a timeline – should it get to the end before you escape, you have to redo the level, but you can rewind time to perfect your actions like a scrubbing effect.
Naturally, you can’t go ahead in time, only back, but you’ll calculate your movements to traverse a room to safety before you’re locked out by a bot or stand still and wait for time to move ahead as the environments crumble.
All The Time In The World
Pausing time means that you can take your time with Timelie. Sure, you have to finish the stage in the designated duration, but it’s a non-linear experience that encourages you to think outside of the box, to learn the behaviours on the enemy bots and what’s happening around you before you commit to anything.
That doesn’t mean that it’s an easy game, and there will be puzzles that are infuriating. You may get two-thirds of the way through a level effortlessly, then a patrol breaks routine, and you’re seen. You might think you can rewind just before being caught, but that soon unravels, and perhaps it’s the second or third action you took that signed your death, so, rewind to that point and try again.
In some respects, Timelie, from Urnique Studio and Milk Bottle Studio, is a turn-based strategy. There’s no restriction on your movement, but if you go too far ahead, you may end up being seen and have to redo the stage again. Though the movement is free, you can only click on a diamond tile-like location on-screen, and it’s not always clear if hiding behind an object will shield you – but you have to try.
Going back to the visuals, they’re well thought out. There aren’t many dead spaces in the game, considering it’s an isometric viewpoint and you can’t rotate the camera. Zooming in is excellent, and you can see just how sharp the edges are on everything. Textures are minimal, but the use of lighting is superb.
Timelie can be played with the mouse or keyboard where you can take direct control with W, A, S and D or point to where you wish to go. Other options include standing still, which is often a great tactic, as well as using powers by pressing the spacebar.
Time Can Wait
The powers available to you allow you to rebuild an area where a floor may have caved in. You resurrect said terrain then can cross over, but only if you have the necessary orb-like item to call upon this skill. Once your path is set, you press the play button to the left of the timeline to see your performance played out.
Another pivotal point in Timelie is making friends with a cat which works at distracting the robots. At first, it’s the distraction, but you can soon play as the cat, pressing tab to take control and spacebar to meow at the bots. It mixes up the gameplay, and it’s a welcome addition to your stealth-based tactics.
Initially, I thought that the bots/AI were a little bit dumb in that they couldn’t see through the apparent glass rooms, but that was no doubt a visibility mechanic to make it easier for the player. Once I understood I could hide behind glass, it made the challenges easier.
The sound production is an interesting one as the narrative is ambiguous as there are no spoken words, and the text is there to give you a gentle pointer on how to play. This works in Timelie’s favour, and the somewhat calming orchestral score fills in the gaps while you work out your time-bending.