Timespinner (Switch eShop) Review
The Switch has more or less become a haven for Metroidvania games, and Lunar Ray Games’ Timespinner is one of the latest to make its arrival. Timespinner is a side-scrolling, action-adventure game centred around the idea of time travel. While the game’s story wraps itself beneath a narrative of imperial war and time travel, mechanically the experience doesn’t go much deeper than that to incorporate time manipulation into its gameplay. And it feels like a missed opportunity for a game called Timespinner.
You play as Lunais, a young Time Messenger from the planet Winderia who seeks vengeance for the murder of her mother at the hands of Nuvius, leader of the oppressive Lachiemi empire. The Timespinner, a clockwork-like device used to allow Time Messengers to move through time, is broken during Lunais’ escape from Nuvius’ raid. Thus Lunais is thrust backwards in time and works to alter the future by “fixing” the past so that her dire present never happens, and repairing the Timespinner along the way.
On the surface, the story seems straight-forward and simple enough, but while playing and uncovering letters and historical notes the game’s lore becomes somewhat garbled. I appreciate the game tries to weigh itself with a sense of presence to provide a backdrop for Lunais’ story, but I found the experience became muddy after a couple of hours when so many names, places, and other filler information are introduced that don’t seem to have much bearing on the experience. The developers clearly had a world they wanted to expand on and characters to flesh out, but much of it was so periphery that I found it distracted from what was directly in front of me.
That said, the game itself feels good to play and I enjoyed a lot of the platforming and combat. Lunais is equipped with two orbs, one for each hand, and can be mixed and matched depending on your attack style (passively, they also surround Lunais). The orbs vary on their properties: the blade orb turns into a sword for up-close melee attacks, and the plasma orb zaps bolts of energy, for example. Combining different orbs allow for alternating attacks, or you can double-up and strike with the same weapon twice. For a more powerful strike, pendants can be equipped and allow you to charge specific spells. These spells, like orbs, come in varying forms such as the aura blast, which fires a massive ball of energy, and the colossal hammer (pretty self-explanatory), among others. But unlike regular attacks, spells come at the cost of aura (mana). In addition, rings can be equipped to add passive effects, such as having your orbs inflict damage when coming in contact with an enemy. Timespinner allows a wide range of combat variation with these pieces of equipment, and to make things more convenient, there’s also the ability to assign certain orb combination profile to switch between on the fly by tapping ZL/ZR.
There is also a bevy of characters Lunais meets throughout the game, as well as collectible familiars (creature buddies who can be equipped to back you up in fights). Some NPCs have their uses and provide an opportunity to buy/sell items, whereas others are there purely to deliver fetch quests and create busywork. The interactions and conversations provide some development that gives more weight to the narrative, particularly with one character who recognises Lunais’ time traveling ability and is aware of her mission to change the future. Lunais as a character, on the other hand, demonstrates very little development by the end and the climax gets a little tangled in its own timey-wimey complex (such is the curse of time travelling stories, eh?).
Where the game’s mechanics fall short is its ability to stop time. Pressing X (by default; Timespinner also offers the option to customise buttons), Lunais can momentarily freeze time to avoid obstacles and attacks. In principal this is fine, however, in the broader scope of the game where she is an agent of time manipulation, this one function seems rather… lacklustre. Still, it’s better than nothing, but I didn’t find myself really using it much until the final stretch of the game when some bosses become a little more complex. Perhaps some puzzles requiring rewinding and fast-forwarding time could have added more gameplay significance to Lunais’ role as a Time Messenger.
In my 11 hour play time, I still enjoyed my experience with Timespinner. While the overall world was quite by-the-numbers as far as Metroidvanias go, visually the game looks really nice. Some may instantly attribute the detailed, pixelated art-style to a SNES game, but I would argue it better resembles something from the GBA era, as it features a richer colour palette and more pronounced character animations. Some areas were more distinct than others, and there were moments I was genuinely taken by the background imagery. If only the story/lore elements had been a little leaner, I could have seen myself really being immersed in the presentation and atmosphere of the adventure.
And that’s where I feel Timespinner’s biggest setback is as a package: too much attention placed in some areas (the unnecessarily overdone world-building), and not enough to others (deeper use of time manipulation). But what we do have is a solid adventure game with a range of combat options, pixel art eye-candy, and duration that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Timespinner is an enjoyable game that stands alongside other good Metroidvanias, but not above them. It has an interesting story that somehow feels both epic and somewhat contained at the same time, but is full of background lore that’s challenging to make sense of in its own right. The visual style looks great, and in some moments really stands out, and features a wide cast of enemies to fight along the way, including some challenging boss battles. In the end, Lunar Ray Games delivers a solid experience – but not an exceptional one.
- Nice visual style
- Deep, variable combat
- Decent story and characters
- Narrative is sometimes garbled
- Lacklustre time mechanic
- Somewhat standard