Being a fan of puzzle games I am always looking for interesting new puzzle games. I usually like all types of puzzle games, but I generally prefer games that try to utilize new ideas. This is probably the thing that first intrigued me about Time Master. A puzzle game utilizing time manipulation is not the most original idea as I have played a few other puzzle games that have explored the concept. What intrigued me about Time Master though is the game is built around working with a past version of yourself to collect all of the fragments as quickly as possible. Time Master is a fun puzzle game with an interesting premise and good puzzle design that is occasionally let down by its controls.
In Time Master you play as Zeno. After his sister disappears Zeno vows to never use his magic again. When he starts to hear a mysterious voice that promises to help him get his sister back, he must complete a series of ancient trials in order to acquire enough power to open up a portal to rescue his sister.
The game is broken up into different puzzles. The objective of each puzzle is to acquire all of the time fragments and reach the exit portal as quickly as possible. You will receive a rating based on how quickly you complete the puzzle which can also earn you additional time fragments. In order to beat the game you need to acquire a certain number of time fragments between all of the levels.
As Zeno is a time magician you will use his ability to manipulate time in order to complete the trials. The ability to manipulate time basically allows you rewind time. You will be able to move around the environment, interact with things, and pick up fragments. You can then hit the rewind button which resets the level back to its original state. When you start moving again your previous actions will be performed by a mirror version of yourself which you can pause at any time. Between the past and present Zeno you will have to figure out the most efficient way of collecting all of the fragments.
The main thing that intrigued me about Time Master was the time manipulation mechanics and the idea that you had to work with a past version of yourself. Basically you have to run through each puzzle twice. Between these two runs you need to find the most efficient way of acquiring all of the fragments. Basically it becomes divide and conquer as in each run you will focus on different parts of the level. Many of the puzzles also require you to use both versions of Zeno together to accomplish a task. The past version of the character basically becomes the sacrificial version as you can leave it in a dead end as it doesn’t have to reach the exit portal.
I think the main reason that Time Master works is because it fully embraces this idea of time manipulation. It is not treated as a gimmick. The gameplay is built around this ability to basically control two characters at the same time. Except for maybe extremely rare occasions, you can’t complete the levels without utilizing both characters. I really appreciated that the puzzle mechanics were intertwined with the premise instead of just feeling like a coat of paint was applied to your typical puzzle game.
This is exemplified by the fact that the puzzle design in the game is generally quite good. Outside of maybe some of the levels that introduce new mechanics, the puzzles are designed in a way which force you to think about how to use the mechanics to overcome the obstacles in your path. As the time to complete a puzzle is important, the puzzles require quite a bit of planning as you divvy up the fragments between the two versions of Zeno to reduce your time. Many of the puzzles also require you to think about how to use your past self to the benefit of the present Zeno as well as take advantage of time paradoxes. The puzzle design is clever and does a good job utilizing the mechanics and premise.
As for the game’s difficulty, I would say it kind of depends. Some puzzles are more difficult than others obviously. Generally speaking I wouldn’t say that it is that difficult to complete most of the puzzles. Some can be pretty hard, but you can figure out most if you take the time to assess which areas the past and present version of Zeno have to deal with. The real difficulty for most of the puzzles is the clock itself. The time limits for most of the puzzles to get three stars is tight. For many of the puzzles you have next to no time to waste. You regularly need to shave off seconds wherever you can. You may even have to approach a puzzle in a completely different way if you are taking too long. It can be a little frustrating when you miss getting three stars by a second forcing your to start the puzzle again from the start to try and shave off a little extra time. Getting three stars on the levels is quite satisfying though. You don’t need to get three stars on all of the levels, but you do need to on a decent amount of the levels in order to get enough fragments to finish the game.
I enjoyed Time Master and I think if you generally enjoy puzzle games and are interested in the premise at all, you should enjoy the game quite a bit as well. I did have a couple of issues with the game though.
I would say the biggest issue is just the fact that the controls do occasionally create some issues for the game. The game’s controls are generally quite simple and to the point. The biggest problem that I had with the controls is just that they aren’t always as responsive as I would have liked. Most of the time the controls are fine, but sometimes when either pushing blocks or interacting with objects they don’t work quite right. The platforming feels a little off as well. Don’t expect the game to be a typical platformer as most of the jumping is just to climb up or down blocks. Normally the controls aren’t a big problem, but sometimes they might cost you a couple of seconds which could be the difference between how many stars you get for a puzzle. The controls sometimes forced me to replay a level to get a fast enough time that I would have achieved earlier if it wasn’t for the controls. Thus the controls can be a little frustrating at times.
The other main issue I had with the game is that the story is nothing special. The story is not bad, but it is not a reason to play the game. It is pretty simple and doesn’t really have much impact on the game. If the story wasn’t there it wouldn’t have really impacted the game all that much. Basically the story comes from a couple cutscenes which come after you reach certain fragment milestones. I do appreciate that the game does have fully animated cutscenes which look pretty good for an indie puzzle game. I would say the story is one of the game’s weaker elements though.
As for the game’s length it is going to depend on the individual player as it all comes down to how fast you solve the puzzles. The game consists of 60 levels plus one special level. Basically to beat the game you need to acquire a total of 450 fragments between all of the levels. You don’t have to complete all 60 levels to get enough fragments if you three star a lot of them. Ultimately the length will come down to how quick you can solve the puzzles. To get the best time in most of the puzzles you have around 20-30 seconds. Thus you could theoretically solve the puzzles in just a couple minutes, but they likely will take longer as you try to figure out the twist to successfully get all of the fragments and reach the end. I would guess the game would take most players between five to eight hours to complete the game. To 100% the game it likely will take a few more hours. Thus I thought the game’s length was pretty good.
As a fan of puzzle games as well as the idea of the time manipulation mechanics, I was intrigued by Time Master. For the most part the game lived up to my expectations. The time manipulation is not a gimmick as the gameplay is built entirely around it as you have to solve puzzles by utilizing both your past and present versions. These mechanics work quite well and are supported by clever puzzle design. I genuinely felt a sense of accomplishment when I completed a puzzle with a three star rating. Completing most of the puzzles isn’t super difficult, but three starring them can be quite difficult. The biggest complaint I had with the game is that the controls can feel a little off at times losing you a few precious seconds which could be the difference between getting a higher rating on the level. The story is nothing special either. Ultimately the game is quite fun though.
My recommendation for Time Master comes down to your thoughts on puzzle games and the time manipulation mechanic. If neither really interest you, I don’t think the game will be for you. If you generally like puzzle games though and are at least a little intrigued by the time manipulation mechanic, I think you will enjoy Time Master and should consider picking it up.
Buy Time Master online: Steam
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Wadjet Eye Games for the review copy of Time Master used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.