No Time To Explain is an arcade style…something. Part Shoot-em-up, part platformer, part absurdist satire on the status of games as art, this game, ironically, takes some explaining. As this style of game is rather light on story, we shall be ignoring that category for this title. Let’s get to it.
Title: No Time To Explain (Review Code Received)
Publisher: Tiny Build Games
Developers: Tiny Build Games, tinyBuildGames
Platforms: Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, IOS, GNU/Linux
Release Date: (Initial) August 11th, 2011 (Xbox One) July 17th, 2015
The gameplay for No Time To Explain consists of using various physics-based power ups (which pull double duty as your main means of motion) to navigate your way past the obstacles presented. Occasional boss battles are sprinkled in, you are a one hit point wonder and hilarity shall supposedly ensue. Or it would, if the physics based controls, when paired with a frustratingly imprecise joystick control scheme, weren’t barely functional at best and mind-numbingly random at worst. One should not, in the heat of a boss battle or above pits of spikes, have to hope that your jet-jump will give you the momentum required to avoid certain death. On numerous occasions I found myself pointing the jet gun directly at the floor and barely gaining a few inches of flight. In a game that expects, nay demands, that you jump over several boss abilities and level obstructions, this is a problem.
What’s more, because the jet-gun always fires when the joystick is pressed with any intensity greater than a fly’s fart, there is almost no ability to assess the situation without dying incessantly. This is a situation that could have easily been resolved if the firing of your abilities was mapped to, I don’t know, one of the other 15 buttons available on the controller.
Controlling your various abilities, which can range from an explosive propulsion to a rubber band effect, on the Xbox One’s controllers joystick feels like trying to balance a bar of soap on a marble. Without an indicator of where you are aiming, like the cursor present on the original PC version, you are frequently forced to just guess where your aim will take you. Combine this with the level and hazard geometry being off-model, and you’ll frequently find yourself dying from colliding with air.
The final straw for me was the boss battles, specifically the final one. Combine all of the issues presented above and then throw in a boss that can set you on fire by mere contact (which kills you quickly without water, and his final two stages have no water present) and who has a shield that must be bypassed AND who must be defeated three times… I am without words, reader. I will allow you to fill in the blanks. Another battle will have you running a pseudo-endless randomly generated gauntlet. That randomness will screw you over as it spawns platforms that you have no chance to reach, and with aggressive speed ups and speed downs, it is an experience that showcases the haphazard design of the gameplay overall.
The art design may charitably be described as spartan. Taking a few cues from webcomics like Cyanide and Happiness, (which, it must be said, has superior animation in its animated series), this game attempts to create a cartoonish world. With bizarre creations, like a godzilla-drill-gopher or a literal ball of hate, it definitely doesn’t lack for imagination. Its levels may switch perspectives, create new environments out of concepts from other, better, games, but they can’t get over the substandard, off model, animation. Hilariously, there are also occasions which showcase the sloppy nature of this, supposedly HD, port, with hugely compressed backgrounds and jagged lines popping up frequently.
Music And Sound Design
The music and sound design are poorly implemented. The music is serviceable, but forgettable, even flat out cribbing a classical composition in a failed attempt at satire (har, har, har!). Under the suffocating maw of the gameplay, I frequently encountered the soundtrack just looping, without subtlety.
The sound design does fare better, firing the jet gun or propelling yourself with explosives is always a meaty experience. It takes its cartoonish appearances seriously and its voice acting alone would have made for a great web series. Then the game glitched out the sound for a full minute and I remembered that launching an HD port takes effort that was definitely not in evidence.
This port is a mess. With a control scheme that exposes the games’ substandard design, and assets that have barely improved from the original, this is not a title I can recommend.