Treasures of the Aegean probably wasn’t on a lot of people’s watch lists this holiday season, but it should have been as it’s an excellent game that combines elements of Mirror’s Edge, Tomb Raider, Flashback and even Deathloop into something very entertaining. It was developed by Undercovers and is available now on all major systems through publisher Numskull Games – we reviewed the PlayStation 4 version.
To begin with that last reference. As with GOTY frontrunner Deathloop, Treasures of the Aegean features a time loop as a central story concept – though as a 2D platformer it plays out very differently. You’re Marie Taylor, and you and colleague James Andrew set out to explore an ancient city from a Minoan civilization that was lost to time. In Tomb Raider style, you’ll be running, sliding, jumping and swinging across the city in search of clues and artifacts – though the presence of a time loop complicates things.
You can only explore for about fifteen minutes because being thrown back into the time loop – though you can extend the time by collecting artifacts. You don’t always start in the same spot though, so you might have a more or less challenging route ahead of you on the next run – and the randomness also helps in making sure things don’t get repetitive. Because of the time loop, your actions in the present day also affect the civilization of the past – who gain access to your research data and thus pass more and more of that on to you again. This way, gradually, you’ll undercover more and more of the puzzle – though eventually you realize others are looking for the same treasures as well.
Although a narrative like that would work in any (action) adventure game setting, Treasures of the Aegean is a platformer first and foremost, with parkour-like traversal letting you make the most out of your runs. Puzzles will regularly stop you in your tracks though, but paying close attention to clues helps you get past those as well. There’s plenty to uncover in the ancient city (called Thera), and because your map data is retained you always feel a sense of progress. With each run, you feel like you’re edging closer to mastering the challenges of the city and its time loop, and it spurs you on to keep trying.
What certainly helps Treasures of the Aegean is its presentation. It may not feature the kind of fancy 3D visuals that a timeloop game like Deathloop has, but the beautiful comic book style presentation took us back to games like Viewtiful Joe and Comix Zone. This style can be seen in-game, but also extends to how you interact with others and in story scene, which is a very appealing design choice by the team at Undercovers. Definitely one of the surprise hits of the season.