Green Game: TimeSwapper is the second game to come from iFun4all and follows on from Red Game Without a Great Name. In the first of the two games you control a steampunk mechanical bird who has found himself in need of traversing various pitfalls to get to safety using teleportation. In Green Game: TimeSwapper the bird is back and, once again, everything wants to kill him – only now he can manipulate time (So, swings and roundabouts…)
The brief intro scene suggests your bird is the creation of a mad scientist who has discovered how to manipulate time (always a nice back-story for any video game scenario), and is to be put through trials to test his newly acquired time-manipulation skills. You then progress through 50 levels of survival, gradually encountering new gameplay mechanics along the way to both help and hinder your ability to fly another day, accompanied by a soundtrack of smooth jazz.
Each time something new is introduced a small hint text is used to explain what it is, which is both subtle and well integrated with the style of the game. You are then required to use this new device to complete the subsequent levels, each one more difficult than the last. This is a great way to avoid the standard tutorials that could otherwise have been employed as it never forces you to stop playing and listen.
To change between time states you use your left analogue stick, mouse pointer or left and right arrow keys to slide between left (past), middle (present) and right (future) and the obstacles on screen are affected accordingly. This could be, amongst other things, opening, closing or rotating an air stream to change your bird’s direction, breaking apart spiked boxes to allow safe passage through them or activating a teleportation point. You can choose to simply navigate your bird from one end of the puzzle to the other, or you can choose a more complex path to pick up collectable gears (3 per level) – to start with the completionist in me insisted on picking up all the gears, this swiftly went out of the window around level 20.
Visual cues are used to display which time state you’re currently using, such as the changing appearance of the bird itself and a green beam of light which blends in nicely to the background, providing information without intruding on your gameplay. Some of the obstacles also include a small yellow triangle, corresponding to the time state required to operate them. These devices are welcome additions to the attractive 2D graphical style of the game.
It would have been useful to be able to zoom out of a level and map a path through it, particularly as the level design becomes more complicated, as there is no way to tell where the gears are or which way to propel your bird, which causes some frustrating deaths purely due to not knowing where to go and means that the game becomes more trial-and-error than logical puzzle solving.
Though the levels get increasingly more hazardous to traverse, you are not punished for restarting a level and you can retry as many times as you like. The first half of the game seems very fairly pitched, levels were difficult but I rarely felt cheated out of a victory – if I didn’t make it through then it was usually my fault, and I could see exactly what I did wrong to correct it.
As the game progressed, however, it becomes apparent that although there are three distinct time states (past, present and future or left, middle and right) there is also every position in between. Some of the obstacles require a very precise positioning of the time state which is not always easy to achieve in the time between them and is easy to overshoot, so although I knew what I needed to do, I could be very slightly off on the positioning and then have to retry.
The combination of required precision with which you are expected to avoid obstacles, trying to keep an eye on what’s coming next in a unknown level map and getting the exact right trajectory from an air stream to miss the (often too harsh) hit boxes on overly sensitive movable spikes made me want to throw my pad, computer and sometimes entire desk out of the window.
Once you have completed all 50 levels, you are presented with a very unceremonious screen, which is exactly the same as any other level end screen, except with the words ‘the end’ instead of ‘next level’ and you can return to the level select menu from here. After the amount of effort it takes to get through everything, it would have been nice to be rewarded with a celebratory cut-scene to tie things up a bit.
Over all I enjoyed playing Green Game: TimeSwapper, despite the (many, many) deaths, and the R-rated language directed at the screen from time to time (not one to play with your kids or grandparents in the room, folks). The Steam store page boasts ‘one-more-try-and-I-quit syndrome’ which I definitely felt earlier on in the game however, it became more of a chore to get through the later levels. If I could suggest three things that would have made my experience more enjoyable they would be:
- Fix the hit-boxes – the obstacle hit boxes are too severe causing frustrating deaths, and the air stream hit-boxes are too generous, meaning that you need to wait before moving after hitting one otherwise the game re-positions you.
- Add the ability to control the speed of your bird manually rather than via power-ups – the slow down power-ups seemed to be positioned very oddly in some cases, and were more of a hindrance than a help. In a game designed to make you replay the level over and over, not being able to speed up your bird through parts of the level you have already mastered becomes very tedious.
- Add checkpoints into later levels – starting from the beginning of the level each time you die is fine in the earlier levels, but towards the end of the game it steals part of your soul each time you are dumped back at the start after a misaligned trajectory millimetres from the end.
Green Game: TimeSwapper is available to purchase on Steam now.