|a game by||GTE Interactive Media|
|Editor Rating:||8/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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Your good pal and fellow archaeologist, Dr. Nichols, has disappeared while researching on Easter Island and it's your job to -- guess what-- 1) find him and rescue him and 2) unlock the supernatural/mysterious/fantastic secrets of the work he was in the middle of when he disappeared.
If this sounds like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Easter Island to you, then you pretty much have a handle on the theme of this game. Fortunately for you, as is often the case in adventure games, although your friend and colleague has been sucked off into some extra-dimensional vortex, he was kind enough to leave behind a 66-page journal and all the clues you'll need to find him. In fact, you really can't miss the clues he's left, as they stick with you -- quite literally at times. Pick up a box of matches at the good professor's campsite, and you're not allowed to put them down until you've successfully lit the lantern they were intended to light. And, if there was any doubt whatsoever as to what you were supposed to do with the matches, the only other thing on the table with them that you can pick up is, fortunately enough, explicit lantern-lighting instructions.
Oh, and then there's the professor's journal. It notes, among other useful things, that he has been looking for Atlantis. Then it tells you again. And again. You'd think you'd pretty much already know this, being his trusted friend and colleague, but, in case you'd forgotten, the journal tells you. "By the way, did I mention I was looking for Atlantis?" it seems to yell from just about every page. "I'm close to the discovery -- of Atlantis -- so please come help me complete my task (of finding the lost city of Atlantis)." You get the idea: HE'S LOOKING FOR ATLANTIS! And in short order you will be too. (There's not much else to do on the island besides look at the professor's deserted campsite and ponder his empty pickle jar).
All kidding and poking aside though, Timelapse has some refreshing ideas, if not themes. First of these, is that the puzzles are actually different from one another, not only in objective, but also in approach. Of course there are the standard knock three times on the pine tree while hopping on one foot and playing an E-flat on a kazoo type puzzles (why mess with success?), but there are also puzzles which involve more rudimentary, and to me, interesting tasks. Like fighting crocodiles. Or playing a version of paper-rock-scissors that involves frogs and scorpions instead. However, of the 51 puzzles in Timelapse (a generous number to be sure), the balance are the "blind-logic" types popularized by Myst -- look at objects, symbols, etc. until you discern a pattern, then go elsewhere and enter this pattern. Repeat until desired event happens. If you were good at this sort of thing on the SATs, you'll probably be good at them here too.
So, do you ever actually find Atlantis? Well, that would be giving too much away...but then, do you think you're just going to play the game for 100 hours only to step through a hidden door and wind up at a 7-11? Well...oh, I can't tell you, but just make sure you're pressing the right buttons when the time comes -- you wouldn't want to accidentally reprogram the VCR of the ancients and wind up, well, stuck in some sphere thing, would you?
Installation and Setup
Very smooth using the Windows 95 autoplay setup routine and, once I had a shortcut setup, it was always easy to get back into the game -- I was even able to ALT+TAB out of the game to add a few lines to this review or to grab a screenshot and then return to the game where I'd left off.
Standard adventure fare: directional arrows, a hand to indicate objects that can be picked up or manipulated. A couple of new twists have been added here however: 1) you can use a joystick to get around -- a nice change of pace from constantly mousing, and 2) within the game you have a camera which you can use to record evidence, puzzle sequences, etc. If you don't read the directions carefully though, you may take half a roll on Easter Island before you notice that you only get 36 frames for the entire game. One annoying thing about the controls is that you have to step, step, step your way everywhere in tiny increments -- a quick navigation to places you've already been would've been nice. Maybe I'm just not patient enough.
The audio in Timelapse is ambient without being annoying. This is an achievement in adventure games, where too often the music either can't be turned off (it can in Timelapse), or is completely distracting or unprofessionally done. GTE made sure that the music was appropriate to the game and did not distract from the excellent ambient sound effects.
I have to add this category in whenever I review an adventure game, as good or even decent acting is hard to come by in this, or any, video game genre. Timelapse, unfortunately, is no exception. When you do finally meet Professor Nichols, he looks and talks a good deal more like Jim from the accounting department than a prominent, eccentric archaeologist. He's also only about 30, which means that to fit with the storyline he must have been searching for Atlantis since about the time most of us were watching Scooby-Doo every Saturday morning. The sequence in which he reveals to you his predicament (he's trapped in this sphere thing) is so closely parallel to old what's-his-name in Myst that I'm amazed nobody at GTE noticed and did something about it prior to the release. "Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi ... " oh wait, different story.
Gorgeous SGI workstation-rendered graphics, very smooth loads and transitions. This is a definite high point of Timelapse - while every good adventure game is going to be compared (at least for the present) to Myst, Timelapse achieves a favorable comparison in this department. It is obvious that tremendous work was put into the graphics for this game, and the effects are not only appealing, but sometimes surprisingly realistic. The initial setting of Easter Island is indeed very Myst-like, complete with the seagulls, but relatively quickly you are immersed in very different environments. To build a number of disparate worlds graphically is no small achievement, and while there are some spots where graphic overkill seems to have won out just because they could do it, for the most part the graphics are very professionally done and are what really make this game better than the vast majority of adventure games wherein a few nicely rendered scenes are placeholders among a lot of more quickly knocked-off environments, or serve merely as gateways to a series of unrelated puzzles.
There were moments in Timelapse when I thought that a particular puzzle was simply beyond my ken -- and I am usually pretty good at tinkering with things to figure out how they work. In the end, though, the nice thing about almost all the puzzles in Timelapse is that they made sense or were connected to something else that I just hadn't looked at closely enough. And the little instamatic camera that the professor left behind was a huge help when faced with a thorny puzzle that required several clues from my wanderings; to have photos of carvings, hieroglyphs, etc. at my immediate disposal was immensely helpful and probably saved me hours of painstakingly retracing my steps (once I'd clued in on how valuable the camera was to have -- make absolutely sure you don't leave home without it). In short, although the game box says that there are over 50 hours of gameplay, I would hazard a guess at more like 100+ for those without the handy reviewer's guide that I had. Perhaps there are some diehard adventure gamers out there who will whip right through this, but given the sophistication of a number of the puzzles, I doubt it. That all of course adds up to great value for your adventure gaming dollar, as long as you are patient. Don't expect much to be revealed as easily as it sometimes appears to be. The rule in Timelapse seems to be that if you get a clue or puzzle piece easily, you probably have to do some daunting reasoning before you will see where it fits. Along the way, though, there are certainly some easier puzzles -- some are in fact more games than puzzles, and these make for a nice break from scribbling down cuneiform characters and trying to match them against other similarly bewildering symbols.
Not too steep, which is a nice change these days, and for the most part the game installed very easily and ran smoothly. However, I did run into two instances where the game completely crashed and gave me an error box that told me I needed the latest drivers for my SoundBlaster. Unless they came out with new drivers in the last six weeks, this has to have been some sort of code problem. The good news is that without updating or changing my drivers I was able to play past the difficulties and, if you follow the instructions and save frequently, you shouldn't have too many problems here either.
Required: Windows 3.1 or later, 486-DX2/66 or faster, 8 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, 16-bit 100% SoundBlaster-compatible sound card, SVGA video card, keyboard and mouse
Recommended: Windows 95, 4X CD-ROM drive, 16 MB RAM, SVGA video card with local bus
Reviewed on: Pentium-166, 40 MB RAM, 6X CD-ROM drive, ATI Xpression 3D, SoundBlaster AWE32, MS Mouse
There have been many attempts to grab a share of the genre that Myst defined over three years ago, but with a very few notable exceptions, the majority of the graphical adventures out there have concentrated too much on puzzles and not enough on exploration. Timelapse does indeed spend the balance of its plot and play on puzzles, but these puzzles are interrelated to the time periods and civilizations represented in each time traveled to, and they often involve everyday tasks instead of merely the fantastic or the abstruse logic puzzle. Also, there is a genuine sense of adventure to Timelapse; the time periods are not merely one odd place after another, but rather make use of the landscapes, architecture, and objects associated with each period. I suppose that some of the appeal of Timelapse for me comes from my interest in history, but I think that even those who have only a passing interest in other ages will find the thought of suddenly being among the pyramids or exploring an Anasazi cliff dwelling intriguing. Overall, then, I give Timelapse an 86 out of 100. It is an admirable and exciting title from a company that is just making its mark in gaming, and it is a promising start. I think that there are some navigational issues to be cleared up, and certainly some better actors to be hired for their next go round in this genre, but if they stick with the basic workings and attention to detail show in Timelapse, it appears that GTE will be a company to be contended with in this genre.