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About the Story
After many years developing a time travel machine, the company has decided to close the project down. If only you could get the machine to work, you would be able to make a leap into the future to prove its merits. But then, how would you get back? An ultra-linear adventure.
Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Puzzles - 1996 XYZZY Awards
A time-travel game with a Doctor Who-ish story involving a dystopian future, the ruins of Atlantis, Nazi England, Time's Guardian and Time's Enemy. A huge game with diverse settings, but ruined by unduly hard puzzles and bad design. If you don't know why "linearity" is considered a bad thing in adventure games, give this one a try - it persistently locks the player into small areas, where you must already have the right equipment (often hidden where it's easily missed) to do the thing that takes you to the next small area (often within a time limit). No going back to regions you visited before, either - perhaps this is meant as indicative of the nature of time, but it hardly makes a good game. Other than that, competently built, with a high code-to-bug ratio, weak prose (it describes things as "feeling evil" so often it becomes funny), and a few nice puzzles amidst all the mediocre ones.
-- Carl Muckenhoupt
There's something about the *way* the puzzles are presented -- never gratuitous, but as part of the story, giving the sense of plot unfolding before the player; layered, interwoven with one another; with virtually all reasonable actions accounted for -- that makes one want to keep trying, even after dying countless horrible deaths.
-- C.E. Forman
[...] when the solutions to puzzles are so illogical or obscure that they stump me completely -- even when I've _already_ finished the game once -- something is gravely amiss. When getting through the first half of the thing, even after I remember the solutions to the puzzles, takes many, many tries because I forget stupid little items that prove essential much later on, it says nothing positive about a game. And when I am unable to keep a coherent transcript because of all the saving and restoring required to get through the every-move-accounted-for sections, well, the resulting review will be less than glowing.
-- Duncan Stevens
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I rather like the time-travel genre, and the plot is both intricate and interesting; but ultimately wrestling with all those maddeningly difficult problems was just too, too much.
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Number of Reviews: 2
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Really. If there was a blockbuster version of this game starring a young Harrison Ford (or even Nicholas Cage, I've often thought the National Treasure movies were text-adventures in disguise.), I'd be standing in line to get tickets.
Run-down scientist with a time machine! A sinister femme fatale for a nemesis! Aliens mingling in human affairs! World War II!
One of those movies where you get a huge box of popcorn (I don't eat popcorn, but you get the image), set your brain to receive-only mode and just munch away. That could be a great cinematographic experience.
Unfortunately, the only way to get a tiny inkling of this experience in the game Time; All Things Come To An End is to have the walkthrough open and just hammer away at the keyboard.
It does a lot of things right though.
First, there's a ridiculously, comically easy intro-sequence. Really, you are fired when your timetraveling prototype device doesn't work, even after years and years of work. The stacks of notes are on your desk to prove it. And then, oops: (Spoiler - click to show)turns out you forgot to charge the batteries...
So after sorting that out, you decide to give your machine a spin. Whoosh! You are stranded in the future where you stumble upon some sinister conspiracy. With his dying breath, a vaguely familiar man asks for your assistance. Coincidentally, it soon turns out that gettting to the bottom of this conspiracy is also the way to get back to your own timeline.
In a big part of Time; All Things Come To An End, you are being chased by the bad guys. Even in the parts where you are not actively pursued, your nemesis (a delightfully sinister femme fatale) is around somewhere, ready to pounce if you should make a wrong move.
In keeping with this chase-theme, the game plays out on a series of small maps. Your objective is twofold: get the objects or information you need, and escape your pursuers to advance to the next map. This should aid in keeping the game tempo up. There are different modes of transportation between maps, giving a feeling of adventure and real action.
The writing in Time; All Things Come To An End is mostly good. Nice descriptions, well-written (if hardly interactive) dialogue, great cut-scenes (and death-scenes). The author does seem to be under the impression there is some sort of prize to be won for "Most uses of the word 'Evil' in a work of Interactive Fiction." I also think the author got tired near the end. The writing drops noticeably in quality, stock-phrases and clichés start popping up more.
All this could (should) make for a fast-paced chase-game where you feel your pursuers breathe down your neck while you try to figure out each area's puzzle and get to safety in the nick of time.
Alas! Time; All Things Come To An End falls flat in this respect. It fails to tie all the good things together in a fluid, fast-moving game-experience.
Some of you may remember a certain groundbreaking game from the late nineties where you had to move through a very specific sequence of moves to advance. (Spoiler - click to show)Spider and Web. If you deviated too much from this sequence, you failed. But! This particular game was framed in such a way that failing and retrying became an integral part of the experience, adding to the tension and the immersion. It also had the mechanics to back up this fail-and-retry design.
Time; All Things Come To An End is not far removed in time from this game. Here too, the player has to correctly execute a sequence of commands in the right order and , more importantly, in a limited number of turns. However, the only way to eventually get it right is to create tons and tons of save-files and restoring many, many times. These are out-of-game actions, leading to completely non-immersive learn-by-dying gameplay. It would not have been a great leap to add some sort of in-game mechanism to bring the PC back to the start of a challenge, given that the timetravel-premise is already in place.
Lack of time/turns is not the only reason why the player should have numerous save-files on hand. It is exceedingly easy to put the game in an unwinnable state without noticing it until one or more chapters later. Failing to pick up an object, or worse, leaving a seemingly unimportant object behind after a spot of inventory-juggling (yes, there's an inventory limit, at least in the first part of the game) wíll leave you at a dead end many moves later.
Now, after getting savvy to this and accepting that this is just how the game works, I managed to make quite a bit of progress on my own. Playing through a chapter to get the lay of the land and figuring out the death-points, then restoring and doing it right got me a good way into the game. But then the puzzles got in the way. And not in a good way. Many puzzles are extremely obscure, very underclued and with no obvious motivation for the necessary actions. Several times, the key to the solution lay in a location that was wholly unmentioned in any description.
Needless to say that after a few hours of this (this game is big, 2500 moves easy), my motivation waned and I started resorting to the walkthrough more and more.
And here I have to refer back to the beginning of this review: I want to see this movie! The story is great in a suspension-of-disbelief-turned-up-to-eleven kind of way. There are cool twists and turns, great locations in time and space, a real sense of mystery...
It's just not that easily playable as an adventure game.
Despite that, I had a lot of fun, and I recommend playing through it anyhow.
This is my first Andy Phillips game. It felt longer than any other game I have played, but it was about 200 turns shorter than Once and Future, and I suppose that Blue Lacuna or Worlds Apart might be longer.
The game is absolutely linear, consisting of 40 or more scenes. In each scene, you must do exactly the right things in a small number of turns or die horribly. You often have to grab items long before you need them, and manipulate them in unexpected ways.
The story and writing is actually quite interesting, but it seems to decay over time. The writing becomes less fresh and more repetitive in the middle (like others have said, everything is described as 'evil' for 20 or more scenes), and typos creep up in the last third.
I only recommend this with a walkthrough. The difficulty is frequently just from poor puzzle design, and not from hard puzzles.
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