Time travel is one of the more unfortunately-underused mechanics in video games. Why does Sonic CD persist as such a unique experience to this day? Its past/present/future worlds, all with their own music, modified level layouts, and interactions between time periods, is a big part of why. There just aren’t a lot of games that play around with time like that. That’s why Chronology: Time Changes Everything is particularly interesting: it uses time travel as part of a puzzle platformer experience that’s brief, but very interesting.
This is a puzzle-platformer where players control the Inventor and the Snail, switching between each as necessary. The inventor can switch between past and present, and interact with objects to solve puzzles, including moving objects between the two time frames. For example, a food object may have to be obtained from the “after” (referring to a calamity that destroyed the world) and brought to the “before” to feed to a plant, which will, when large, serve as a platform to advance further.
The Snail serves an auxiliary, but important role. Her time travel ability freezes time which can be used to get the Inventor on to a moving platform, for example. She can also slide along walls and serve as a platform for the Inventor. The Inventor can summon her from anywhere except designated spots, which helps with the whole “can’t jump, because she’s a snail” thing.
The game really starts to get good once the two characters’ abilities mish-mash with each other. For example, Snail must freeze a projectile in mid-air for the Inventor to jump on, and then he must switch time periods while in mid-air to make it to the ledge. These types of puzzles abound throughout the game, and there are a bunch of fun solutions to try and tackle. The game rarely ever gets too complex or esoteric with any of the puzzles, as everything largely needs to be done in a small area, and there’s no way to mess anything up permanently.
The controls are well-suited to handle the experience. Touch controls are spaced out well enough to where I didn’t feel like I was hitting anything accidentally, and the use of context-sensitive virtual buttons helps too. I was able to do some of the more complicated character switching and time manipulating with few issues. The controls support lefty and righty alignments, for those who want the option. Also, the game has full MFi gamepad support, including in the menus. Huzzah! Even the sound design is done well – characters off-screen while talking will sound distant, only coming through the appropriately-positioned speaker.
Chronology only really suffers when dealing with challenge-based platforming, like trying to time difficult jumps, as the game has a very stiff movement feel to it that can make the game a bit more annoying than it ought to be. The game does have some friendly respawn points, but it’s just kind of ironic that a platformer struggles, with, well, platforming.
I had a good time with Chronology, and I’m going to bet you will too. It’s brief, but makes great use of its ideas. Time travel is an underused gameplay mechanic, and I hope more games use it like Chronology does.