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Posted on Jul 26th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (Disposed Hero)
Posted under Review, Action, Adventure, RPG, Metroidvania


While I consider myself to be a fan of the 'Metroidvania' genre, admittedly I feel like I haven't played a ton of them and have probably missed out on some that are considered among the best of the genre. Timespinner is one such game that had caught my eye due to its art style and positive reception, and the game's availability via Game Pass meant there were no excuses for not checking this game out. Unfortunately, the game leaving Game Pass in mid-July is what it took to motivate me to finally play it, but I was disappointed and am glad I finally gave this one a try.

Developed by Lunar Ray Games and published by Chucklefish, Timespinner is an action-adventure platformer RPG (Metroidvania) that takes heavy inspiration from the classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Initially crowdfunded through Kickstarter, the game was released on September 25, 2018 for the PS4, PC, and PS Vita, and was later released on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. The game has been met with mixed to positive reception overall.



Timespinner begins with our main character, Lunais, in her home village. Lunais was raised to be a Timespinner, someone who can travel back in time in case of an emergency in an effort to prevent said emergency. After her village is attacked by the Lachiem Empire, the attempt to use the Timespinner device goes awry, resulting in the Timespinner being destroyed and Lunais ending up in the distant past. Lunais is now on a quest for revenge against the Lachiem Empire while also trying to find a way back to her own time.


The story of Timespinner is serviceable but not something I was particularly invested in throughout the experience. Lunais will also meet several NPCs in the past-era that will offer sidequests, and these can help add to the plot and flesh out the characters, as well as offer the traditional rewards that you would expect from sidequests. There are also quite a few of lore collectibles to find that can help flesh out the story. It is also worth noting that there are multiple endings depending on the actions you take at the end of the game.

As previously mentioned, Timespinner falls under the evergrowing "Metroidvania" umbrella, and the general gameplay loop of the genre is present here: Explore a large map while finding new items and upgrades needed to enter previously inaccessible areas. There are also plenty of enemies and bosses to fight along the way, and doing so will earn experience to level up and get stronger.

As mentioned previously again, Timespinner takes heavy inspiration from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and wears this influence proudly on its sleeve. Everything from the menu system, to the map layout and presentation, to the music, and right down to little animations and flourishes such as the Level Up notification all feel like they were ripped straight from Konami's classic. Breakable objects such as candles and vases containing money and items are littered throughout the environment, and even the dual maps of past and present Lachiem mirrors SOTN's regular and inverted castle scheme.


Looks familiar...

While many elements of the game feel like an intended love-letter to SOTN, the game's combat system feels more inspired by the likes of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia's Glyph system. Throughout the game, Lunais will find different Orbs with various different abilities, and two can be equipped and used simultaneously. Some Orbs utilize short-range melee attacks, while others will be longer range projectile attacks, and the player has the option of using two of either type or mixing them up as they see fit. Orbs will level up as more enemies are defeated, causing them to do more damage. Various magic attacks and passive abilities can also be used by equipping necklaces and rings. Magic attacks consume a resource called Aura upon use and include things such as long-range lasers and large overhead sword strikes. Passive abilities are free to use and include things such as a shield to block projectiles and gradual healing.

As the title of the game suggests, time is an important element of the game, not only from a narrative perspective, but within the gameplay as well. As a Timespinner, Lunais has the ability to temporarily pause time which will cause any enemies and projectiles to freeze in place. Not only can this be used on standard enemies and bosses to get out of harm's way during a tough encounter, it can also be used to create platforms out of the frozen enemies and projectiles and is a required mechanic to reach certain out of reach areas. The time freezing mechanic is limited in its use however, as it will quickly drain its governing resource (sand, represented by an hour glass) and refills very slowly, although sand refill items can be found from candles and enemies.


Boss fights are fun and unique.

The only real complaint I have with the game is how frustrating it can be in the later areas. Many later game areas require you to traverse them vertically and make good use of Lunais' time freezing mechanic. This wouldn't be such a bad thing except that you have to use floating enemies as platforms, and waiting for them to get in position while simultaneously dodging projectiles can be annoying. There are also enemies in the later areas that can inflict status ailments that drain either your Aura or your Sand, and these enemies are tough to avoid and are commonly placed in or around the areas where you need to use your time freeze ability. Complaints can and have been levied against the game for its story and lack of time-related mechanics, but I personally didn't have a problem with these areas.

As far as presentation goes, Timespinner more or less nails it. The graphics are in a 16-bit or early PSX-era sprite-based style, and the sprites, effects, and backgrounds all look great. Composed by Jeff Ball, the music is also great and will please any fans of the typical Castlevania style. In fact, many of the tracks from the game sound so similar to tracks from SOTN that it's clear that they were intended as a direct homage (or an unabashed ripoff, if you prefer).

Timespinner is a great game overall and is an easy recommendation for fans of the genre. While I was fortunate to be able to play such a great game via Game Pass, Timespinner is unfortunately no longer available through Microsoft's subscription service. With a runtime of only approximately 5 hours for a single playthrough (although there is some replay value here also), I feel that the retail price of $20 may be a bit high, but grabbing it on sale would be well worth it. Either way, Timespinner is definitely worth checking out.


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Comments
 
Oops, totally meant to write "I wasn't disappointed" at the end of the first paragraph. Of all the typos I could have made...
 
Looks good! Thanks for the review. I saw you can also buy physical Limited Run copies from Best Buy.

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