Release Date: November 3, 2021
There are those people who can pinpoint a single moment of their past where the entire trajectory of their life was changed. For a disabled scientist with an interest in both robotics and time travel, the temptation to try to change that moment can be strong, and this is the – rather heavy – premise of Time Loader, a 2D puzzle platformer with a time-traveling robotic protagonist. His creator has sent him back in time to destroy a tiny red toy car before his child self can trip on it, causing him to fall from a treehouse and spend the remainder of his life in a wheelchair.
If you can get past the rather dark conceit of the game, it’s pretty much a joy to play. The challenge is most definitely in the puzzling part of this puzzle platformer – I found the platforming to be actually sort of fun, and my tolerance for platforming games is very small. The movement of your robot feels both logical and smooth, whether you’re rolling underneath things, jumping on top of things, or using your grabbing tool to swing across gaps to wide to jump.
Interactables are highlighted, so you won’t need to pixel hunt, but sometimes it takes a bit of time to figure out why you can pick up certain items. Although the game lacks the ability to save anywhere, levels are fairly short, and have multiple checkpoints. There doesn’t seem to be any combat or fail states – I have yet to hit a point where I needed to reload rather than just backtrack through the level.
The graphics and sound design are both delightful, and it really feels like you’re a very small robot navigating a very large world. Of course, time travel is a complicated thing, and just destroying the toy car won’t be the end of the adventure. According to HowLongToBeat, you can expect to get about two and half hours from a playthrough, but unfortunately, I doubt that there’s much replay value here, although the developers have indicated you can get multiple endings. Still, if the latter half of the game is as delightful and charming as the first half, it’s definitely worth a play through if you can pick up on sale or in a bundle (as I did).
SteamDB estimates that Time Loader has sold between 4,700 and 13,000 copies on Steam. Most reviewers enjoyed it, with detractors about evenly split in either thinking it’s too easy, or that the later levels have some unexpected and unwelcome challenges. It is ranked 1384 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.