Lunais is a gifted young girl who has been chosen to proceed through the Timespinner. However as she is just about to do so, the Lachien Empire murders her family in front of her very eyes. Now lost in an unknown world, feeling hopeless and lost in despair, Lunais must find her way back with nothing but the ability to control time itself.
Controlling Lunais feels smooth and is easily adaptable. The gameplay is crucial to any metroidvania as you don’t want to be exploring mazes and be fumbling around all over the place the entire time, and Timespinner absolutely succeeds in this regard.
Within the first 10 minutes of exploring the map, you gain access to the Timespinner. This nifty party trick allows you to temporarily stop time so that you can gain a better advantage over your enemies. You can also use it to freeze enemies, turning them into temporary platforms to reach places higher up.
Timespinner has some RPG mechanics that lets you level up and further customise your arsenal. Various Orbs allow you to play around with different spells and abilities; different equipment lets you bolster your stats for combat and you even get familiars to fight alongside you. The customisation in Timespinner is incredible, allowing you to mix and match various fighting abilities and you feel like a badass doing so.
Boss fights are challenging and engaging, making you adapt to their pattern movements. Utilising Timespinner’s unique ability of pausing time itself mixes up each approach to every boss, and there are quite a lot of boss fights for a 6-8 metroidvania. Even still, it is best to become familiar with every ability available to you as you’re going to need them.
In regards to the Nintendo Switch version, I was incredibly disappointed with the lack of HD Rumble. Some sharp jolts upon taking damage, a low rumble when time has been stopped and some shivers through the controller when unleashing a special attack could have greatly enriched the experience.
Each area in Timespinner has its own unique feel to it and yet when it comes to traversing them, they all feel very much the same. That may not necessarily be a bad thing, but much of it becomes quite repetitive as time passes (no pun intended). However speaking of time passing, the fantastic thing about this game’s world design is that you are able to travel between the past and present, allowing you to travel through the same area twice but providing two separate experiences.
However on a negative note, playing through each area feels horizontally stretched out, which can make backtracking somewhat tedious at times. You may also often find yourself at a loss as to what to do and where to go next, so running back and forth isn’t exactly my idea of fun. Luckily, you obtain a way to fast travel one-third through the game, which is a real time saver.
The plot in Timespinner is surprisingly deep and complex, with great attention to detail to its lore. As you progress throughout the dungeons, you find fragments of your mother’s memories scattered throughout. These recounts of the Qaelans’ past provides detailed lore, providing a clearer picture of Lunais’ reasons for being who she is. Whilst this method certainly is a nice way to highlight the lore of the game without breaking up its flow, these memories are merely text and would have greatly benefited from more detailed cutscenes.
The dialogue is well written and character relationships are well established. You quickly get a great idea of the characters and their motivations. As you continue to meet more NPCs along the way, each character blends so naturally with the world that there are no awkward moments.
Timespinner has some incredible storytelling techniques and such in-depth lore that it’s a shame that it didn’t go on for longer. So much so that the game’s plot may have thrived much better as an RPG.
Graphics / Art Design
Timespinner has a classic 16-bit art style that seems very unpolished. As much as that may seem like a negative, that’s not my intention. In fact, it helps to recreate that true feeling of playing on an old school Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. It simply takes that extra step of nostalgia that we are all for. Not only that, but the game is predominantly in a 4:3 aspect ratio, recreating the classic CRT TV square presentation.
The backdrops are incredible with fantastic detail that will sometimes make you stop and marvel. My favourite was when Lunais goes back in time, the majesty of the forest and the 3D effects that it gives off is beautifully done. However, I do have to also mention the backdrop in the present time and being able to see flying cars flying around.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtrack is serenely beautiful in almost every aspect and will hit you as soon as you load up the game. Most commonly when exploring each area, the score will consist of a variety of different instruments: from piano, to violins to electric guitar. It all comes together to add to the mysterious atmosphere, aided with the ability to travel through time.
Final Score: 85%
If you love a good classic RPG story but not the gameplay mechanics of one, then Timespinner’s metroidvania approach may speak to you much more. With the amount of lore and backstory that comes along with it, as fantastic as it is, it all seems to be over and done with so quickly. That being said, the journey along the way is certainly one to enjoy.