Dripping with inspiration from the 90’s era of action platformers and metroidvanias, Timespinner delivers a memorable experience offering modern tweaks to the formula that will leave you wanting to dive right back in after the credits roll.
Created by Lunar Ray Games and published by Chucklefish, Timespinner places you in the shoes of Lunais, the newest initiate into her clan of Timespinners. As her initiation is about to take place, her clan is attacked by the Lachiem Empire. As she watches her friends and family be slaughtered around her, she is thrust back through time. Now Lunais, stranded and alone, must find a way to change the past to save the present.
Timespinner is an interesting new Metroidvania experience that combines some interesting elements that bend the norms of the genre in fun, unique ways. For starters, instead of a chain-whip or sword, Lunais equips herself with two floating orbs that levitate around her as she moves across this new world. The title takes an opportunity here that allows players to customize their orbs in a plethora of ways in-turn creating their own version of Lunais. Some orbs turn into floating swords or hammers as she attacks, while others harness a specific element to dish out damage. Where one orb might spit out lightning, another can be equipped to deal melee damage as well. Add to this the ability to switch between three loadouts on the fly and Lunais eventually has an arsenal at her disposal.
Orbs aren’t the only customizable option though. Rings and necklaces can be equipped within a loadout as well, which not only add passive buffs to her orbs but grants her the chance to use unique spells as well. Rings can add enhancements to Lunais’ orbs like setting an enemy on fire whenever an attack lands or spinning blades that deal damage whenever an orb touches an enemy or object. Spells range from giant, ethereal weapons that materialize out of thin air dealing massive damage, to the more expected spells like shooting balls of energy or fire. All of this combines into a huge variety of options and loadouts that can be easily accessed and swapped out mid-combat simply by pressing the right or left triggers.
As Lunais kills enemies she gains levels that increase her overall stats. Players can kill everything they see and grind up levels to their heart’s content, quickly making Lunais a force to be reckoned with. You can also equip her with armor that buffs her defense and attack as well.
The addition of familiars, a strong reference to Symphony of the Night, means Lunais is never alone in her endeavors. Each familiar brings it’s own elemental attacks to the table. Meyef, a cute dream dragon, spews flames on its enemies; a sprite/fairy type familiar can cure you during combat or as you explore the world, an owl-like griffin creature tosses out wind attacks, etc. While a second player can take control of Lunais’ familiar, the experience itself can be rather boring, thanks to a lack of attack options/abilities.
The first hour of the game ends up being rather linear. Lunais runs from left to right across the screen, killing enemies and unlocking more of the map. Eventually, once the story is established, the overworld is unlocked and you’re free to explore to your heart’s content. The first few areas tend to be rather straight forward as they lack any real verticality commonly found in other Metroidvanias. However, after a few bosses, the map begins to expand out in all directions. Abilities like double jump and breathing underwater lend themselves to the apparent lack of any vertical traversal, and new locations are continuously discovered.
As the name suggests, “Time” is a factor in this game, but sadly after the first few hours, the ability to control time feels more and more like a half baked idea, more than a fully fleshed out mechanic. Certain areas require you to freeze time at the right moment in order to use jumping enemies as a stepping stone to access out of reach locations or chests. After acquiring a few skills though, this concept quickly falls by the wayside. Freezing time ultimately becomes a tool for dodging boss attacks more than anything else, which is fine, but it would’ve been nice to see this device utilized more.
Like most Metroidvanias, exploration is always rewarded. Heading down the road less traveled almost always pays off in this game. Things like Health, Magic, and Time freezing upgrades make Lunais more formidable, but you’ll often find new orbs, necklaces, and rings tucked away in the corners of the map as well. There is truly a lot of collectibles to discover, and this ultimately ended up being one of the most exciting and addicting aspects of the game.
The overworld is beautiful. Deep, dense, pixelated environments add depth to every area, and thankfully each new biome is completely different from the others. That being said, within each biome you will notice re-used frames or areas that make some locations blend together. Adding water or weeds to the map doesn’t change the fact it’s the same design.
Side quests are available as well, with most unlocking more vendor items for purchase. If you’re like me though and enjoy killing everything you see, Lunais quickly becomes a force to be reckoned with on her own, making anything the vendors sell basically useless. The most important vendor, I found, was the one that allowed me to upgrade my orbs once I had collected enough resources; further adding to Lunais’ potency in battle.
Timespinner’s soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard in recent memory. Each area has its own unique track, and each track is just as enjoyable as the last. From moving orchestral scores, to more light-hearted upbeat tunes this soundtrack is one you’ll be humming along to long after you’re done playing.
Timespinner doesn’t remake the wheel, but it pulls from enough sources to firmly root itself among the better Metroidvania titles. In a genre that is constantly flooded with new titles, Timespinner sits near the mid-top. It wears it’s Castlevania inspirations on its sleeves and the game is all the better for it. While the side quests, story, and time freezing mechanics all feel like afterthoughts more than fully realized ideas. The moment to moment gameplay, soundtrack, and potential for creating unique loadouts make this a tight, unique, and enjoyable experience fans of the genre shouldn’t miss.