Puzzle games come in all shapes and sizes, but Time Loader by Flazm is one of those that caught our eye not for its puzzle mechanics but because of its narrative and thematic elements. It was released on PC last year, but has now made the leap to console as well, where we checked it out on a PlayStation 4 Pro.
With light puzzle platforming and a charming time-travel themed story, Time Loader isn’t the kind of puzzle game that has you scratching your head about its solutions, but it’s the kind of game that is as fun to watch as it is to play. This is despite a somewhat sad setup for the narrative, with features a young boy called Adam who gets hurt and ends up in a wheelchair. As he grows up, he manages to invent a time-traveling little robot, and he sends it back in time to try and prevent himself from getting hurt in the first place – which is where you come in.
With this little robot, you have to figure out a way around obstacles in your childhood home, which is filled with fun little nods the 1980s and 1990s. And even though you’re a small robot, you can make big changes, as even a small change in the environment can cause a butterfly effect that changes events in the future. Trying to save Adam might endanger someone else, or your attempt might only put off the inevitable. It’s the kind of stuff that makes time travel stories fun, and it’s being put to good use here.
The gameplay unfolds in a 2D environment where you engage in light platforming with a jump mechanic and manipulate parts of the environment with your robotic arm – something you can also use for grabbing hold on things and swinging around with some momentum. You’ll gain new abilities through objects you find as well, which include a helpful screwdriver. It’s not a metroidvania, but it does keep things fresh by regularly introducing new mechanics.
As mentioned, Time Loader is on the more casual end of the puzzle game spectrum, and should appeal to people who enjoy games like Unravel. It’s usually fairly clear what needs to happen in a certain situation, and it wasn’t until the later phases of the game that we had to pause and figure out some of the challenges in front of us. The campaign has a few different endings and is only about three hours long, so if you want to dive in again there’s a bit of replay value there. However, most of the gameplay will prove to be the same on a second or third playthrough.
Time Loader lives up to the expectations we had with a charming protagonist and narrative, and anyone who likes to play around with time travel elements will certainly enjoy it. It’s definitely not “hardcore” enough for puzzle game purists, but a lovely puzzle platforming adventure for those who enjoy games like Trine and Unravel and want to avoid having to search for puzzle solutions online. Oh, and older gamers will certainly appreciate the nostalgia as well!