No Time to Explain (PS4) Review – Time Warp

No Time To Explain opens with a guy happily gyrating in front of his TV (possibly doing the Time Warp), then out of nowhere, his future-self teleports into the room with a dire warning “There’s no time to explain…”. Suddenly, the side of the house is torn away and his future self is dragged off kicking and screaming by a giant alien crab. Luckily, he leaves his weapon behind; a high powered laser gun. Our dazed and confused hero then grabs the cannon and gives chase, setting out on an adventure to rescue his future self and hopefully find out what the bloody hell is going on.

However, you won’t be spending much of your time shooting aliens with your amazing new laser cannon. Instead, its main use is as a highly volatile, multi-directional jet pack; allowing you to jettison yourself over gaps that would normally be impossible with a well-timed blast from the cannon. It takes a little getting used to but after the first couple of stages you’ll be chucking yourself around the games expertly crafted micro levels with relative ease.

There is a narrative, and unsurprisingly it’s absolutely bonkers, involving a series of future selves being sent back to the past in order to stop a calamity from occurring. Unfortunately they screw it up every time, buggering up the time space continuum in the process, as a series of increasingly ridiculous giant beasts snatches them up. That’s all I’m going to say, I don’t want to ruin it and to be honest it gets so convoluted and crazed that there is no time to explain it adequately in this review. Let’s just say it’s incredibly entertaining, laugh out loud funny in places and utterly batshit, and leave it at that.

The games madcap story and gameplay is also served well by its Newgrounds style visuals, reminiscent of the work of similarly madcap studio The Behemoth.

The game’s mechanics change almost as quickly as your future self is kidnapped, with each set of levels introducing new mechanics (and not all of them involve firing your laser), however each do present a platforming challenge in which you have to toss yourself around the environment in one form or another. Half way through one mission, your current self is thrown down a hole and replaced with a new you toting a pair of sawn-offs that hurl you in arcs across large gaps. Another level sees you committed to an insane asylum and developing telekinetic powers, there’s also a section where the whole world turns to cake and you have to make yourself fat enough to bowl through obstructions by eating cake. My personal favourite though ripped off the painting mechanics of The Unfinished Swan, in which you use a gun full of ink to navigate the environment, while a series of sprites make funny cases for why games are art. These changes come thick and fast, with the game moving at such a breakneck pace, that by the time you’re used to doing one thing, it moves onto the next. I will say though that all the different playstyles are very easy to pick up and the game does a fantastic job of having you learn by doing. I guess this is because there is… No Time to Explain.

As fun as No Time to Explain is, it’s not without some minor flaws. The biggest being the somewhat inconsistent checkpointing. If you fall to your death or hit a spike you will simply respawn on the last platform you successfully landed on. This is a god send when trying to navigate the trickier later stages. However, and somewhat annoyingly, dying in any other circumstances, such as being set on fire, or hit by an enemy, forces you to start from the beginning of the level. This is particularly irksome during the game’s boss battles for obvious reasons.

 

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The boss battles themselves are also very hit and miss. Earlier stages feel quite fresh and have the difficulty pitched quite well; there’s also a wonderful homage to Sonic at the end of the cake section’s boss battle in which you have to roll your lumbering frame into a familiar looking egg-shaped craft. However, the final boss is a complete pain in the arse. It’s a multi staged battle against an enemy that can simply run you off the screen, or basically insta-kill you with very little to show you how or why, forcing you to restart the entire fight from the beginning,

Some levels also require a teeth gnashing amount of trial and error, as circumventing some of the later stages (particularly the psychic one) involves a series of lethal traps and pitfalls. This requires you to throw yourself around with a level of precision that the controls simply can’t accomplish, which in turn makes progress feel more like it was more based on luck rather than skill.

With that in mind, the incredible speed at which the game flits from one playstyle to the other means that you’re never stuck doing something irksome for more than a couple of levels, and so long as you can persevere, chances are you’ll have a better time with the next set of levels and accompanying new gameplay style.

And then, after only a couple of hours, it’s over. Sure, the narrative doesn’t make a lick of sense until just before the credits roll, and even then it’ll leave you feeling like you were just ambushed, but it ends on such a satisfactory note that left such a big smile on my face and an odd warm glow inside, that all of its minor faults seems to just melt away. It may not be big, or particularly clever but No Time to Explain is hell of a lot of fun, and sometimes that’s all a game needs to accomplish. If you can’t understand that, well, I simply don’t have Time to Explain.

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