the only one I trust...."
Echoed Professor Alexander Nichols' voice over your answering machine. You've known Alex for some 20 years now, ever since he first began his search for the fabled lost city of Atlantis. It wasn't easy to be his friend, many people scoffed and ridiculed him. But you've always supported Alex, you knew that their taunts hurt, even though he pretended they didn't. He's traveled around the earth in search for clues to lost civilizations, believing that they will eventually lead him to Atlantis! You two have always kept in touch, but in this message he seems strangely excited. Carefully you listen.... "....Now, finally, I've found that missing link. On Easter Island I've discovered what appears to be some sort of alien device. In it, I can see worlds from the past, brilliant scenes flowing by like clouds. Whatever it is, it definitely is not man made. If I am right, and this device is a time gate, then this may be the greatest archaeological discovery of all time. Tomorrow I'll attempt to activate the time portal and go throuh it. I don't know what will happen to me when I try this. Please, hurry, I need your help. You must come at once to Easter Island." Of course, you couldn't resist and rushed right out the door. But upon reaching Easter Island the only thing you found was an empty campsite; the Professor had vanished! Reading his journal you discover that the alien artifact is a time gate. Also, it is already preset to travel to the Egyptian, Mayan, and Anasazi civilizations, to the time when they vanished from the earth! Although Atlantis is also preset, it is inaccessible. You cannot turn your back on him so, gathering his journal and camera, you seek out the time gate. Your friend has disappeared... his campsite empty... his life may be in danger... and you're the only one that can help. Gameplay:
OK, OK... I know what your probably thinking "Not another MYST-clone!". As a matter of fact, I thought the same thing when this box was first placed in my hands. But I soon discovered that TimeLapse has taken the best of all other adventure games and improved upon them in every aspect. Using the classic time-worn technique of navigation, TimeLapse incorporates the very familiar slideshow-like first-person perspective style of movement. However, GTE has improved upon this theme, adding some sorely needed options to this concept. One of the first improvements that you will notice is that players are no longer chained to the mouse, we now have the option of navigating either by keyboard or mouse. A nice little touch to this is the fact that when you move via keyboard the game will display several small arrows in the bottom left corner of the screen. These arrows function like a small map, showing us all of the directions that are available for us to explore. I can't tell you how many times I would be stuck on a level of some other adventure game not knowing what to do until all of a sudden, I just happen to turn in a direction that I wasn't aware I could turn. "And there it was!" in plain sight! (What it was, I couldn't explain... but you other adventure gamers know exactely what I'm talking about) Needless to say this is a great addition to any adventure game... BUT... for some unknown reason if I begin to move around with the mouse, the arrows disappear! Yes, that's right! You only get the wonderful arrows when you navigate via the keyboard! What kind of strange cruel trick is this, GTE?
Another cool little addition to the game is what GTE calls a "Hyperlink", not the type that you HTML writers are accustomed to. This hyperlink is utilized to correct a problem that all adventure games share... backtracking! How irritating is it for us to have to revisit locations in a game, and when you're looking for that elusive clue and feel like you're just aimlessly wandering around. Well....GTE has taken into consideration some spots that you are likely to visit often and added hyperlinks to them. In most games, if I am about 7 "steps" away from something I need to get to, even though I can see the item I still have to wait for 7 individual screens to load before I actually get there. But with a hyperlink, I simply place my cursor over the place (or item) that I need to get to, click and voila!!! I'm there! This, I thought, was a fantastic addition to the game. I can actually spend more time playing than waiting to get somewhere (of course it only works with the mouse... are we noticing a pattern here?) OK... Now here is probably my favorite little option that GTE was considerate enough to include. As all adventure gamers know, after purchasing a new adventure game you should also run down to the local stationery and buy pencils and a pack of paper to go along with it. I remember some games that after completing, I would be left with stacks of hand-written notes, drawings etc. Once again GTE has solved this problem with a relatively simple answer... a camera! Yes a camera, GTE was also nice enough to include a cyber-photo album (free of charge) to keep all your pictures! I have to say that it is nice to take a break from always having to draw things from the screen. Now if I come across something that I think might be important to me in the future, I simply whip out the old camera and take a picture of it! Isn't GTE great! Of course like all cameras, you have a finite amount of film, 36 shots to be exact. At first I was afraid to use up all of my exposures, but actually I found that 36 is more than enough. Oh, did I forget to mention that in order to use the camera you have to find it first? OOPS... silly me, Oh well it isn't that hard to find... for some people. One other aspect of TimeLapse that I would like to comment on is the journal (Whew! This Gameplay paragraph is turning out to be longer than I expected! Curse GTE for making so many improvements to standard adventure games. My fingers are begining to hurt!). One of the things that the Professor left behind is his journal which contains a wealth of information you should read. Is this ethical? The Professor has already been to the worlds in which you will travel so he's made extensive notes about each one. Each different world that you enter will permit you access to a different part of the journal. And I have to say, my complements to the person who wrote it. Just by reading it, and there's a lot to read, you can tell that extensive work was done in researching each civilization. Upon doing some research I found that the journal was written by Dick Moran, Sal Parascandolo, Mike Yeun and Lori Nichols. Good job guys! I found the journal to be a wealth of information and a very interesting read. Those of you that are interested in Atlantis, aliens and such things will be hard pressed to put this book down. I highly recommend that this journal should be read before exploring each time, and since the professor has been to these locations already he does give some useful information on puzzles and places that you will see. And you might find the occasional hint hidden within those pages. OH! did I mention that in order to read the journal you have to find it first?... I must be getting old in my 23 years... oh well, happy hunting! But don't leave Easter Island without it! Graphics:
Whoa!!! Talk about graphics! These are absolutely stunning, I've never seen a game utilize images so well as to pull you into itself. Now, I know that graphics are not the most important aspect of a game, but TimeLapse sure does use them well. These are more than just simple images, they are works of art! Just look at the ones I've included in this review,Iif you want to see a larger version, click on the image of your choice and you'll know what I'm talking about. These ray-traced photo-realistic images really complement TimeLapse and add to the mood and feel of it. Each was rendered on Silicon Graphics workstations and is incredible! Also, GTE has included animations within certain parts of the game to further draw you into the game's mood. These animations could be a bird flying in the background or a stray cat walking through the Egyptian temple, each integrated very well into the background. I feel that this small touch really enhances the realism of the adventure. Another good point is that the images do not lose quality with the many puzzles. In most other adventure games you can see a difference in the graphics quality of an object that you can interact with, but not in TimeLapse! Every part of the game looks as if it were part of the whole; the same graphics attention that was given to the background images was also given to all other objects. Nice touch, GTE. Sound:
The sound for TimeLapse is some of the best I've heard in a long time. A nice touch to this is the diversity of music. Each time has it's own special little tune and some have several, depending on where you are in the game. But the majority is a nice mellow sit-back-and-relax type of melody. I can remember some games that I would actually turn off my speakers because the music just irritated me after a while, but I'm glad TimeLapse does not fall into that category. The sound effects are of a superb quality and crystal clear. Although I did notice one flaw in the program (Aha! I finally got you GTE!), it seems that during navigation the music will cut out for a split second and then continue with the turn. It doesn't happen all the time though. I have to admit I didn't even notice it until I loaded TimeLapse onto my 486 to see if there was a performance difference. It was here that the music cuts were really pronounced (along with some other things, but I'll talk about that later in the comments section). To be fair it's hardly noticeble on my Pentium. And after some research I discovered that GTE is already working on a patch for it. I know it's really a small flaw but to those who think I'm getting too picky, well hey, if GTE hadn't made such an astounding game then I wouldn't have to dig so deep to find something wrong with it. : ) Interface:
The interface for TimeLapse is fairly basic. Using the mouse, the cursor will change to a left arrow to turn left or a hand when you can interact with an object, etc. However GTE has also included several "hot keys", such as pressing CONTROL + J to access the journal or pressing CONTROL + C to use the camera, etc. This helps to speed the game up greatly since you only have to press keys to access certain features of the game. I also found that pixel-hunting is kept to a minimum. Objects that will move you along in the game are fairly visible (Except for the key hidden in the vase of the Egyption board). So I don't have to break out the old magnifying glass to search my screen for that elusive clue (Unlike a certain game called Hell). Interaction with the game is very pleasant. One problem that most slide-show adventure games have is "load time". Every time you take a step the computer must load a new image on to the screen. This of course can take some time (depending on the speed of your computer) and is very annoying. GTE seemed to have corrected this problem. Load time for their images is remarkably quick (on my Pentium with 16mb RAM it is almost instantaneous). So moving through a couple of different images isn't a task to test one's patience. This enhances the flow of the game and is very pleasant. Puzzles! Puzzles and more puzzles! TimeLapse has 51 to be exact. Each one is lovely and the interface is well thought out. Some will depend on skill, some just luck (like the Egyptian game where you must roll the dice). These give real life to TimeLapse and it is very obvious that each is carefully crafted. My favorite is on the Mayan board - they have a version of paper, rocks or scissors. Except you pick either a locust, a spider or a frog. It's really fun to watch these animals fight it out on the screen! Some puzzles are very mechanical, like freeing the boat in the Egyption board and some require some thought like deciphering the Egyption number system (I hate math). On the Anasazi world some puzzles require that you have a keen sense of sound. The diversity of puzzles is astounding, challenging all of our senses, it's such a nice mixture. Each puzzle blends in with the story-line wonderfully. In some other games it seems as if the puzzles are just slapped in to slow you down so that you don't breeze through the game. The puzzle doesn't seem to belong there, but you have to do if you want to get to the end. It almost seems like a chore. But in TimeLapse each one feels likes it's a part of the world that you are in. Comments:
Well there is one thing that is a little annoying about TimeLapse. Up until now I have been playing it on my main computer (Pentium 133Mhz 16Mb RAM) and it runs smoothly. However the minimum requirements state that 486 is acceptable. So in order to give you readers with a 486 a fair review, I loaded TimeLapse onto my second computer which is a 486 100Mhz 8Mb RAM. And sadly, there is a large performance difference. Screen load time has almost doubled, and cuts in the music during navigation are much more pronounced. Also, when handling items that require you to move the item around the screen, the computer seems to have a difficult time keeping up with my hand motions. Most noticeable is on the Egyption board when holding the mirror, instead of moving smoothly across the screen it seems to skip around. A similar effect occurs on the Anasazi world when holding the flashlight. This is very annoying and takes away from the game. I wouldn't say that this is a flaw in the game, but just to warn any readers with a 486 what to expect while playing. How will TimeLapse do in the market? So far so good, and with the holidays approaching I'm sure TimeLapse will be on many a child's wish list. But there's another game in town (already?), and this game is claiming to be every bit as good or even better than the others. Having many similarities to TimeLapse, ancient civilizations, visitors from other worlds, Atlantis, the Pyramids etc it appears that this game will be in direct competition with GTE. Who is this opponent? Drowned God -conspiracy of the ages- . Will Drowned God be able to rival TimeLapse? No one is sure. But these two will undoubtebly be butting heads over the next few months. Who will emerge the new king? Your guess is as good as mine. But aside from that, GTE Entertainment has taken the standard adventure construct and taken it to new heights never before imaginable, surpassing everyone's expectations of how an adventure game should look and feel. GTE has marketed TimeLapse as a "MYST-killer". Although this might be a bit egotistical... they might be right! It would be a lie to say that MYST had nothing to do with it. In an interview with Rick Barba, Lori Nichols (Producer) states: "Well, it probably comes as no surprise that it started with MYST. So we started talking about how we could improve it. What would it take to create a game like MYST, only better?" Have they succeeded? Have they truly created something better than the "king" of adventure games? One thing's for sure, after almost 2 1/2 years of development they have truly emerged with something I believe will be a classic. There is no shortage of effort with TimeLapse and I'm sure that the team worked very hard to create this inspiring game. Could they have possibly set a new standard for adventure games? Earlier I spoke of the possibility that this was just another MYST-clone....I was wrong. But I wonder if from now on all adventure games will be compared to this? Will we begin to hear the phrase "TimeLapse-clone"? Only time will tell....... Overview
I've tried very hard to find something that I didn't like about this game (a task in itself). It's hard to find a flaw in a game that is so well made. The star that I took off is not because of the performance difference between the Pentium and the 486, since this is to be expected, especially with a game as intricate and detailed as this. I wouldn't think that anything but a Pentium could do this game justice. But the minimum requirement is a 486 so I had to test it in order to write a competent review. Like I said, I didn't feel that I should count this against GTE, the star was taken off due to the music cuts during navigation. Even though it only happened some of the time and really wasn't that noticeable, it's still a flaw nonetheless. I know! I know! It seems cruel, a bit picky, and GTE is making a patch to fix it. But look at it this way...a perfect score should be awarded to a perfect game... but a perfect game wouldn't require a patch to fix a problem.