Stories in videogames? Who needs a story in a videogame. All we want is mad-cap craziness and thankfully that’s exactly what we get with TinyBuild’s Xbox One title, No Time To Explain.
Let me get things straight. There are times when I absolutely adore No Time To Explain. There are also times when I absolutely hate it. For No Time To Explain is crazy; in both good and bad ways.
A comedic platformer, you are tasked with chasing your future self through both time and some of the weirdest alternate realities you can think of. The thin veil of a story is played out through some super quick cutscenes lasting no longer than ten seconds in length. From then, it’s up to you to decide what you need to do, and work out exactly how to do it.
With a trusty jetpack crossed with cannon gun your main form of transport, you’ll need to navigate your way through short but sweet areas that are filled with obstacles, hazards and insane end of level bosses in an attempt to jump into a swirling portal, ready to be whisked away to another load of madness.
With fairly simple but highly effective visuals detailing the puzzles ahead, it really doesn’t take long before you’ll begin to fall out with No Time To Explain, before quickly loving every minute of it again. And that is mainly due to the sheer amount of luck required to succeed. With your jetpack either thrusting you across the screen in a split second, or bouncing you around in small steps, the chances of ensuring your guy ends up exactly where you want him to are slim to non-existent. When a level is filled with moving spikes, flames of fire, pools of acid or electric walls, precision is the name of the game and unfortunately No Time To Explain doesn’t particularly allow for it.
However, well placed checkpoints ensure that no matter how many times you die (and you will die an awful lot), it isn’t too much of a hassle to play through the same parts over and over again. Indeed, there are times when dying is the only way for you to learn the level enough in order to move on to the next, but whilst I don’t necessarily have an issue with this, I’d prefer my failures to be played out due to a lack of expertise, whilst my successes come about thanks to my precision flying. With No Time To Explain, luck more than overrides the feeling of accomplishment throughout.
From time to time you’ll find yourself in the shoes of a different character, usually a future you from a future land, who is complimented by a different form of moving around. Just as you think you’ve got to grips with the jetpack/cannon combination, the arrival and complete change in movements that a shotgun, slingshot or alien forms bring are well placed to break up the monotony. Beware though, the learning curves for these new modes of transport and destruction are high – in the case of a couple of them, too high, with deaths increasing tenfold in your first few levels with the new tech. Personally, I found them to be nice touches to add a bit of gameplay variation, but throughout my time with them, was constantly looking ahead for the chance to get hold of the trusty old jetpack again.
For the most part, the levels are well thought out and just about doable. There are times when the controller has nearly ejected itself from my hands in rage as once you start getting near triple figure deaths in order to complete a small section of the game, it all feels like being back in Trials Fusion land, trying to get that damn bike over one of those extreme courses. There are times in fact when No Time To Explain is just not a nice place to be.
The addition of a local co-op mode is initially a great idea, but again this brings about far too much screen movement and confusion, with the screen hopping all over the place trying to keep up with more than one character and the co-op side of things basically boiling down to a case of who can get to the wormhole the quickest. Co-op isn’t a particularly fun experience but if you do have a friend who fancies a five minute blast, then by all means go ahead and hit No Time To Explain. You’ll have a breeze moving on through the easier levels but the latter stuff is just too darn tricky to work through with two people so I absolutely hate to think what it would be like if you managed to get four rolling together!
End of level bosses are supremely well crafted and created. Whether you are going up against a killer crab, a mighty shark, a rodent with a drill or a guy in a spaceship, you’ll have good fun trying to work out their weaknesses and strengths. You won’t beat any of the bosses first time, and you’ll need to work out exactly what is required of you in order to remove them from your world, but strangely, in a complete contradiction to the rest of the game, the big guys are just about the only time when you even remotely begin to feel that your skills are coming to the fore in favour of the luck element.
The visuals are good, the music is good and No Time To Explain can be good. It can also be a right pain in the arse though with the need for precision not being followed up with the opportunity. You’ll need to either have the patience of a saint or a great deal of willpower to battle through some of the latter levels, and even more if you fancy trying to collect all the hidden wearable hats!
We don’t necessarily need storylines in games; No Time To Explain shows that fun can come in many forms and overrides any complex plot.
We do however need to have the feeling that our skills are getting us somewhere and that’s exactly where No Time To Explain lets us down.