No Time to Explain Review: Humorous, Clever Platforming

Just when everything seems to be going great, disaster strikes in the story of No Time to Explain.

There you are, just hanging out in your (nearly empty) house, dancing and having a good time, when suddenly there’s an explosion, leaving a hole in the nearby wall. In jumps a sunglasses-sporting, jumpsuit-wearing guy who looks a whole lot like you. “I’m you from the future: There’s no time to explain,” he says, before suddenly a massive claw tears through the wall, snags you from the future, and carries him off as he screams in pain.

You follow him, grabbing his powerful laser cannon. Because, you know — gotta save him. Or something.

So begins No Time to Explain, a side-scrolling action platformer that’s dripping with insanity. The game concerns bouncing through time, creating time paradoxes, jumping into other dimensions, and playing as other versions of yourself. There’s a lot of humor here, and even more craziness, piled on top of what is usually a pretty solid set of platforming mechanics that take what’s familiar in the genre and riff on it enough to be fresh. If it weren’t for some fairly serious technical issues, No Time to Explain would probably fall into your must-play indie game category.

No Time to Explain
Platforms: PC (Reviewed)
Developer: tinyBuild
Publisher: tinyBuild
Released: Jan. 25, 2013
MSRP: $9.99

No Time to Explain started life as a short flash game playing around with the same idea as this title has at the start. For its $10 retail release, however, No Time has been fleshed out to a huge degree, packing a ton more highly diverse levels and a number of challenges, plus lots of completionist items to find. There’s a high degree of variety here, and while between chapters the game can sometimes feel completely different from what players were previously experiencing, it’s all held together by underpinnings of common mechanics. Nothing strays too far from the beaten path, but there’s enough fresh content in No Time to keep it very interesting throughout its three-or-so-hour run time.

The majority of the work in each level requires players to make a series of jumps using the power of their laser cannon as something of a jet booster. That requires some careful timing — hit the gun as you’re rising in a vertical jump and you’ll be propelled higher; fire it as you jump over a gap and it’ll carry you forward. Careful use of the physics of acceleration are key to almost all of the game’s short-but-challenging levels, and as time goes on, the mechanics continually build on one another to make for some tough sections. Nothing is so difficult that it becomes frustrating, however, and the game manages death by just popping you back at the last place you stuck a landing.

The variety in the levels is what makes No Time to Explain so much fun. The laser booster mechanic is in and of itself a cool addition to the platforming lexicon, especially as time goes on and the game starts to require quick thinking and careful aiming to redirect yourself mid-jump. Some levels toss you a different gun, like a shotgun that’s good for a stronger but shorter blast of power, and others physically change your character, like one that has you playing a goopey clone that can slingshot itself and stick to walls. The different mechanics do a lot to change up the game as you’re playing through it, and there’s so much variety on offer that you really get your money’s worth in terms of platforming.

Along with the regular platforming levels that usually require maybe two or three minutes to move through, you’ll also hit some arcade-style boss fights and other interactions. There aren’t really any enemies to speak of in No Time to Explain, but occasionally you’ll have a boss to deal with like a giant Dr. Robotnik-style robot ship, a huge space crab, or a mole with laser eyes. These pitstops are interesting in their own right, but often don’t really live up to the standard of the straight platforming bits. Death in the boss fights is completely haphazard — sometimes a boss will hit you to no effect, and others you’ll be killed so thoroughly as to have to start the fight over. But they’re always very easy, and are not particularly strong in terms of control or design.

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