I’ve played my fair share of Metroidvanias, often for the sake of review on the Good Ship Most Agreeable™, and I have to admit that sometimes they tend to blur together in my mind. This sounds like a bad thing, but really my extensive experience with these games has just honed my taste for them, as well as informing my expectations. Timespinner, by Lunar Ray Games, feels very reminiscent of other Metroidvania tiles from the word go, but unlike a lot of modern games in the genre, it hews a little closer to a classic formula rather than treading its own path.
What kept me hooked to Timespinner is the time-traveling yarn it tells. Heroine Lunais is a member of a clan of people who are constantly going back in time in an attempt to rewrite their story, as it were, because an oppressive empire keeps invading their home planet. After one particular attack, Lunais is thrust into the conflict and actually stranded, as the device her clan uses to move through eras is destroyed.
Although the story starts out very trope-heavy, the further into the game you get, the more you realize the conflict at hand isn’t what it seems – and your part in it is bigger than you know. A lot of this is told through missives and scriptures that are for the most part optional, but once I dug into the backstory I had to know more.
I wish I could say that the time traveling is integral to Timespinner as a whole, but I’d be lying. Sure, you can travel to different eras, but it doesn’t feel as sweeping as, say, Chrono Trigger’s changes in locale. Furthermore, I often forgot that Lunais has time-manipulating powers, like being able to freeze time in order to position a foe to use as a platform, or to wiggle your way out of a boss’s attack. I’ll get into the nitty gritty of the gameplay in a moment, but the fact that I wasn’t reminded to use these abilities – and that I didn’t use them willingly until I got stuck – actually wasn’t that big a detriment to the game as a whole, since the basic game is so enjoyable.
The jumping feels great, and the combat revolves around using different combinations of orbs that are elemental or weapon-based in some manner. Its fun to play around with them as you gather more, and your experimentation is rewarded by them leveling up and getting stronger. You also have a general leveling up system that raises the amount of health, magic and sand power you have on top of a ‘familiar’ system, where an imp or owl follows you and gives you a buff and extra attack power. The game loves to pop out numbers as damage is dealt, and I enjoyed every moment of it. It did give me a strange sense of deja vu, though…
At one point you reach a staggering castle with a drawbridge and I realized why this felt so familiar – this game is a love letter to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. From its mechanics to its save rooms to its quirky inhabitants and elegy-laden soundtrack, Timespinner tries its hardest to remind you of Konami’s seminal classic… and it works.
Although the overall world design is thematically entertaining, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say Timespinner was a bit staid in its platforming design. But I didn’t care, because I was breaking candelabras for power-ups and warping between doorways in a way that was familiar and warm.
I rarely dog on a new Metroidvania, and Timespinner was a pleasant surprise in the way it hews close to Symphony of the Night yet still feels like its own thing. The gameplay is comforting and engaging – if unsurprising – and the plot is twisty in just the right ways to keep you going. While it may be a running joke that the Switch is literally up to its neck in exploratory adventure games, definitely don’t let Timespinner slip your attention.
Timespinner was developed by Lunar Ray Games and is published by Chucklefish. It’s available on PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Switch and Vita (Vita! Still going after all these years!). We reviewed the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: review code for Timespinner was provided by Chucklefish. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.