When I started Time Loader, I must admit that I very much did not anticipate what I was going to get. The game opened rather darkly with the narrator, Adam, relating the story of how he fell out of a tree house and came to be paralyzed, and while I was somewhat grateful that I wasn’t THAT much older than the narrator, again, I still wasn’t suspecting the game to be as dark as it was, especially considering the juxtaposition of that darkness with the objective cuteness of the time loader itself.
Time Loader attempts to solve the grandfather paradox and tries to do some interesting things along the way but is largely hampered by the slow gameplay and uneven puzzle design. Still, the game’s ambitious premise merits a playthrough.
Remember the boy who fell out of the tree? He apparently spends the next years of his life studying to become a scientist, specializing in quantum mechanics and physics. Our intrepid narrator wants to create time travel in order to reverse the chain of events that led him to become paralyzed so that he may avoid becoming wheelchair bound.
Recognizing the impracticality of sending himself back to 1995, the narrator crafts the Loader, an AI driven robot equipped with a screen that doubles as its face, four poorly attached wheels, and a grab arm that works when it chooses to function, more on that later. The loader’s initial mission is to destroy the red car on which the narrator slipped, causing his fall from the treehouse, but time being all “timey-wimey,” altering one cause leads to another emerging. The game plays a bit with this concept, but ultimately, by the time you reach the final act, you know roughly where it’s going to go. All that changes is which version of the ending (of which there are four) you secure by your actions in that final act.
Time Loader is very much a puzzle platformer, and those puzzles take the form of navigating the adorable Loader across what is possibly the messiest house in existence. Seriously, there’s clutter everywhere, which works out well for our intrepid Loader. Most of the time, the solutions for these puzzles will be pretty clear, and short of a sequence involving a cat, the game allows you to take your time working through the mechanism of achieving the puzzle solution. The environment is well-realized and full of nostalgia notes. I may or may not have owned the same mouse the Loader passes in Adam’s bedroom, and there are some pretty great pop culture references to be found, adding to the game’s overall charm.
Make no mistake, Time Loader is decidedly charming, mostly because the Loader itself is adorable. Everything from the digital expressions to the random observations the AI makes just makes the robot more and more endearing, which is a good thing. You spend a lot of time with this robot; Time Loader runs about sixish hours, and gameplay is very, very slow. The Loader has precisely one speed for the entire game, and that’s something I’d characterize as falling between a stroll and an amble. The lack of speed possibly works out well for the Loader as, again, the household environment in which the game takes place is replete with obstacles. However, it can make for a somewhat tedious slog in places.
Loader has the capabilities inherent to any platformer protagonist. It can perform limited jumps, climb short distances, manipulate objects, and swing from conveniently placed dangling objects. Loader can also throw items, an ability that comes in handy quite frequently when Loader has to use the grab arm to haul itself over parts of a cat tree or other obstacle. Time Loader is very physics dependent which can be both good and bad. It’s good when the physics work. Unfortunately, there are moments when they break down, and for me, that happened most often when I would try to get the Loader to clear an obstacle that by rights it should have easily done. Either the jump wouldn’t work the way it should have or the arm wasn’t handling the way it ought to have done, as I mentioned earlier. However, because the physics depend on the puzzles (and vice versa), I found my expectations frequently stymied. In that sense, I found the game frustrating.
Otherwise, the game really is well-realized. The voice acting is spot on, and the music fairly tranquil. As I mentioned, the animation style while well-done adopts a certain retro feel that jives nicely with the 1995 setting. The details the developers include render the environment immersive, and aside from the prodigious amount of mess, there’s a realism to Adam’s house that takes me back to the nineties.
Time Loader is a fun little game that does suffer from some flaws, and while I do think younger players can certainly appreciate the game, the nostalgia factor clearly targets more, ah, mature players. Time Loader doesn’t require any skills that will be unfamiliar to anyone who has ever played a platformer. Given the Loader’s snail’s pace, Time Loader benefits from some stopping and starting.
Still, it’s very worth a playthrough. Time Loader retails for $14.99 on the Nintendo Store.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- There’s at least one video cassette cover that I can promise I really did own.
- I did wonder why there was a random pumpkin hanging out in the kitchen as I don’t remember CSA boxes being a thing in the nineties. However, I could be wrong about that.
- I will also admit that Adam’s treehouse reminds me why I’m constantly shocked any of us survived to become adults ourselves.
- I would legitimately purchase Loader swag. Flazm and META Publishing need to get on that.