Ah, September. The month where triple-A games flood onto our consoles seemingly non-stop. A month in which avid gamers turn into vigilantes web-slinging through the streets of New York. Explorers plunder the ruins of hidden cities in search of artifacts. With titanic games consuming our free time, it's hard to miss sprouting little indie games that are right around the corner before October blindsides us with more games our wallets can afford.
Developed by Lunar Ray Games in a span of over four years, Timespinner catapults the player into a 2D Metroidvania style platformer where time is the key to overthrow an evil empire. You take control of Lunais, a girl trained to be a "Time Messenger" whose goal is to use a time wheel to travel back to forewarn your clan of the impending attack of the Emperor. Only this time, Lunais has decided to finish it once and for all by taking down the Emperor herself.
In order to do so, you take control of time both for exploration and combat purposes. Level design is varied and rich as you traverse the past and present of the city Lachiem. Despite travelling in the same city, the design crafted in each level is wide-ranging, with the soundtrack helping to distinguish the time difference between the two, with levels such as Greenwood Forest having an inspired Scandivanian folk score to represent the medieval setting that contrasts with the technologically advanced Lachiem of the present. The present's background music emits an elite sophistication with dark tones hidden within levels such as the Varndagray Library.
This distinctiveness makes jumping from platform to platform never seem like a chore. One aspect that could have been improved is the map, which should be magnified – it's so small it will have you questioning if you need glasses from the constant squinting. There's a marker option which you can add to help you know where to go, but the tininess of the map means the marker obscures the entire area you're intending to place it on.
With satisfying, responsive controls, combat is as diversely lavish as the levels. Part of your short ranged melee attacks are two magical orbs, which you can equip simultaneously to attack the enemy. Each set of orbs you collect has different magical abilities. For instance, the shattered orb, which turns your orb into floating shards of moon pieces, differs from the fire orb. In equipping the orbs, there is fun freedom in which ones to mix and match. These orbs, just like your main character, level up as you defeat enemies, which can drop either items that can regenerate your health, or even key items that are necessary for side quests. Long ranged attacks come in the form of spell necklaces. These powerful attacks can be executed as long as you have available aura, which is the equivalent of MP.
Not long after you complete the short tutorial, you're introduced to the use of time as part of one of the key mechanics to combat. Its introduction is the spice of the combat, as certain areas can only be reached by stopping time and jumping on top of an enemy. Time is also encouraged to be used as a means to avoid damage, especially since there's no block ability at the beginning of the game. Instead, you're encouraged to use your back dash ability and freeze time to jump behind them. However, its limited gauge pushes you to literally know how to use your time.
With a nostalgic callback to the good old days, you can play local co-op, with your friend joining you as a familiar. These familiars are helpful cute little buddies that tag along throughout your journey, and each one you obtain has different combat focuses. For example, Meyef, your introductory familiar, focuses on helping you damage the enemy, while others could focus on regenerating your health.
The story itself is the crux of the game. Right from the beginning, you are tossed into this peculiar world, which avoids falling into the pit of making time travelling unusual. The plot weaves crucial political themes into its tale of warring nations, where the good guys might not be as good as they seem. There's also a plethora of letters and documents to find that fills in some backstory, but you don't need to read it all to understand the main plot.
Dialogue can sometimes deviate into being too direct, but overall manages to be entertaining. Odd characters such as a talking crow merchant stand out, and the very mysterious presence of your familiar is an intriguing element of the story. The protagonist's fiery personality can sometimes feel a little overdone, again because of the dialogue, but thankfully her character is fleshed out enough that she isn't one dimensional.
Aside from a few mishaps in dialogue, Timespinner distinguishes itself with an absorbing story with interesting underlying themes. It stands out with a refreshing time travelling spin on combat that reflects the diversity of the level designs. Exploration, sans the tiny map, is enjoyable, with the past and present boasting unique music and mechanics to keep things fresh. Overall, this solid adventure is a great use of your time.