Independent games were once renowned for the extra effort invested in original plot, characters and at least an attempt at interesting dialogue, while triple-A titles pushed forward interesting gameplay concepts. With big-name developers now competing to see who can be as derivative as possible, we rely on independents to conceive gaming elements intriguing enough to prevent the gaming world from becoming an industry-servicing industry, pumping out bland, generally acceptable titles that appeal to wider audiences to maximise sales, using the profits from last year’s sequel-fest bland-o-rama.
Project Temporality investigates some potential game-saving concepts but is one of the most derivative independent titles in regards to the extra-curricular gaming elements that we’ve ever seen. Somewhere along the line, tables have turned.
The concept behind Project Temporality (PT herein and henceforth) is a brain implant that enables the user (victim?) to reverse time and their own actions/movements to a point of their choosing, then create a clone to carry out the course of action they just reversed, and carry on to do something else themselves. I managed to conjure a perfect 73-word example for this part of the article, but a clear explanation does ruin some of the fun so the above is all you’ll get. This element is explored quite a lot in PT, with each puzzle in every level showing some unique qualities – it won’t feel like you’re repeating the same solution every few minutes, which is awfully nice.
To address accusations of derivativeness (it turns out that’s a valid noun) I’ll just mention clear influences, Portal and Dead Space. PT’s protagonist’s suit and surrounding spaceship setting look identical to the already derivative Dead Space, while the jarring text and avatar based dialogue from the antagonist feels like a tacky rip-off of Portal, as his strong scientific observer frame of mind slowly, obviously and predictably breaks down, and the train of thought follows that of a typical psychotic ex-loved one.
Players have their hand held through every facet of PT which is a bother – this is what makes the story an ultimate head-shaking, eye-rolling experience. The best approach for storytelling is the “show, don’t tell” approach, but the team behind PT seem only to know how to very tediously tell everything. The story is an amalgamation of clichés presented in an ugly and obtrusive fashion (I believe jarring is the word I used earlier…).
The tone of PT is very inconsistent and unsettling – the music is interesting but fails to set any believable mood for the game: the art style, sound effects and some tracks appear to paint PT as a casual goof-off for all ages, while the dark plot and complex ideas spoken of (or rather, alluded to) attempt to bring a grisly, look-at-yourself-and-think-who-am-I reality check, ultimately resulting in a few hours of “eh, at least the puzzles are fun.”
Which they are. Players will use their own clones upon clones to push buttons, grab keys, dodge lasers, jump chasms, beat time limits and ultimately walk through doorways. The difficulty rarely rises above a timid chin-scratch but it avoids the common puzzle problem of being a relentless pain in the ass so it gets my vote.
The graphics look nice too, as if that really matters.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Project Temporality by Defrost Games.