Puzzle platformers are everywhere these days, with indie game developers and the Steam Greenlight programme combining to provide a constant flow. This one is from Danish developers Osoa games, and maintains another trend; mechanics based on the manipulation of time.
Chronology had a bit of a rough ride to publish; the studio where it began life closed at the end of January this year, leaving a small group of developers to finish it off and release it as the first title from Osoa games.
Chronology follows the adventure of the Inventor and Snail as they try and set the world to rights after “The Verve”, one of the Inventor’s projects, has a hand in destroying the world. Waking up with no memory of what has happened, the Inventor comes across a device that allows him to switch between the past and future. He stumbles across Snail, a somewhat irritating engineered mollusc that for some reason has the ability to stop time. The two must combine their abilities to solve puzzles and make their way to the lair of the Inventor’s mentor, the man responsible for manipulating The Verve into a destructive force.
The story is simplistic and of little consequence- which is fine in this sort of thing. What lets Chronology down is it’s lack of charm and humor. The old man and snail partnership is quirky enough to have some potential, but sadly the characters are one dimensional. Snail is at once whiny and endlessly optimistic, the Inventor just grumbles a bit and both end up spouting a lot of generic lines about not running from your past. It’s a real shame that the game stumbles in the personality department, because the gameplay is fairly solid and the puzzles quite enjoyable.
Time is at your mercy in Chronology; Snail can stop time completely and the Inventor can switch between the past and future. Snail can also squidge along vertical surfaces and act as a platform for the Inventor, who can jump and interact with objects. Players can switch between the two at the push of a button.
The combination of mechanics makes for some really interesting and tricky puzzles. The Inventor can water a plant in the past and watch it sprout into a platform in the future, and Snail can freeze obstacles or objects in mid air to allow the Inventor to pass.
There are some inventive puzzles to be found in the latter half of the game, combining all of the abilities to make for a decent level of challenge. If the difficulty and creativity had been on form for all of the game’s run time then Chronology would have been great, but the first few chapters are wasted on simple set ups and the whole thing can be completed in under two hours.
Given the myriad of games in this genre and price range Chronology just can’t compete. It’s mechanics are strong but there isn’t enough content to take on the likes of Constant C, another well designed puzzler that offers a similar length of core game but also adds collectibles and a time attack mode. The levels in Chronology exist solely of the route that gets you to the next level, and there’s nothing to tempt you back for a second go.
Audio & Visuals
Chronology takes its visual inspiration fro the work of Hayao Miyazaki, the master animator behind films such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. The influence is visible in the character design, with the little fez and huge mustache of the Inventor channeling some of the Miyazaki look. Snail doesn’t boast as much detail but makes up for it with a nifty reversing light! The backgrounds flick between the blue sky and industry of the past to the darker, wilder future, where strange bits of sentient plant life seem to have taken over. The cut scenes simplify the details of the backgrounds for a lovely hand drawn feel, and Chronology is certainly distinctive enough in looks to stand out from the pack.
The in game music suits Chronology’s atmosphere, but the only audio elements that stand out are the opening and closing themes. The twinkly start menu music has a catchy piano hook, whilst the end credits song, Crooks and Criminals by Stöj Snak, is a cool track to listen to even if it does seem at odds with the quiet nature of the game. The voice actor for the Inventor lacks warmth but that minor flaw is nothing compared to the irritation that is Snail, even the Inventor doesn’t seem to like he/she/it much.
Chronology is a sweet little thing that never realises its potential. The Miyazaki influence is evident in the artwork if not the quality of the characters and story, leaving it up to the gameplay to sell the title. The time freeze and time travel mechanics allow for some creative and tricky puzzles, but unfortunately the experience is cut short just as the they begin to pose a challenge. There is no reason to play the game again, and whilst it is a pleasant experience there are a lot of titles out there that provide more bang for your buck.
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