Travelling back in time has its drawbacks, as recent literature, films and games have proved. What happens if you go back to a certain point in history and accidentally change the course of time by killing someone, or diverting their path? The answer? Mostly devastating things. Travelling into the future is less of a problem as it seems as if nothing can be affected. Tempus – Level Escape is a game that takes us into the unknown and through many future time zones. But can we get back to where we started?
The art of visual storytelling – delivering narrative without any words, cutscenes or dialogue – is something I personally am very fond of, especially when it’s done well. The ability to tell a story and give hints to the universe around it is something that games like Inside and FAR: Lone Sails do extremely well and now there are loads of games that follow that template. I think Tempus does a brilliant job of creating an atmosphere and world that is both spellbinding and intriguing without really explaining anything about what has happened verbally. You can guess at it and imagine – that’s what makes it a bit special.
You play a lonely inhabitant of an island called Tempus, which is right in the middle of nowhere. The game starts with you discovering a portal in your garage. When you walk forward you are transported 200 years into the future on the same island. Your task is then to try and reactivate the portal by exploring and actioning a series of tasks, all as you hope to get back. But each time you re-activate the portal you travel further in time; further into the future.
As progress is made, the storytelling works well as you journey through each level. You might see the ghosts of people working away at jobs in the future or luxurious apartments with strange tech. In other parts of the game, a war has happened and huge spaceships lie in ruins as people shelter in primitive camps. It creates a sense of wonder and atmosphere that works brilliantly throughout.
Gameplay wise and, as the name suggests, Tempus – Level Escape is essentially a first-person puzzler. You arrive at each place and have to solve a series of conundrums to activate the portal, usually working three or four different points on the island. These puzzles are all varied in nature, from the simple ones at the beginning where you have to follow a set of clues to find openings in a house. Then later on you might stumble upon something which asks you to solve a robot murder. I found each of the puzzle encounters in all six areas very different in their approach; unique and enjoyable to try to solve. The movement and exploration around the island work seamlessly and this is certainly a game that is easy to pick up and play.
In terms of the visuals and Tempus has a simple set of colours and designs, but it works with those really well. The island looks great with some brilliant skies and wonderful architecture in all its time zones. It has to look good too as these visuals are the main storyteller. A hint of possible consequences and endings to this world are shown, whilst there’s a timezone that plays in water and rain that I found particularly compelling to play in.
The sound effects are effective and neatly designed. But it’s the delights of an accompanying piano score that plays throughout, which will help you with the puzzle solutions.
For around a fiver, Tempus – Level Escape will be able to provide you with an experience that is relaxing and intriguing, complete with some brilliantly designed puzzles. Running at just a few hours in length, the visual storytelling is a delight, helped by a concept that is completely original and unusual. Perhaps if you are new to the puzzle scene, this might be too obtuse at times and there may not be enough hints on what to do next. But for me, the varied level design and puzzles make Tempus a game that is extremely interesting.
Tempus – Level Escape is on the Xbox Store