May 22, 2020

Andreas Betsche

Time Is On Your Side In Timelie, A Stealth Puzzler Made In Thailand

May 22, 2020 | Andreas Betsche

A young girl wakes up in her bed. Is she in a hospital? She leaves the room and we quickly notice that something is wrong here. Clinically clean environments, strange machines and dangerous robots on patrol. What is going on here? Let’s leave this unpleasant environment as soon as possible! In Timelie, the first game by Thai studio Urnique, we are looking for a way out and how to get there is the puzzle we have to solve. Fortunately, time is on our side!

It quickly becomes apparent that the girl cannot defend herself against the robotic beings: as soon as they see us, they pursue us mercilessly and a game over is not far. So we have to dodge their cones of vision and skillfully “time” our approach through the levels. This pun is to be taken literally, because the girl fortunately has supernatural time manipulation skills. As with video editing software, we can fast forward, pause or rewind a timeline with our actions and the movements of the enemies at any time. Did the robot see us? No problem! We just rewind and try another way.

Basically, this game lives from its trial and error mechanics. Bit by bit we puzzle our way through the rooms, open color-coded doors or lure enemies into traps. Later we meet a sweet cat that helps us by distracting opponents with its meow. The girl also learns other skills, such as restoring collapsed bridges or completely switching off robots. However, these abilities can only be used to a limited extent because we first have to collect glowing artefacts in order to be able to activate them.

In the best cases, we coordinate our two characters so skillfully that we reach the end of the level unseen. This sometimes results in extremely satisfying eye-opening experiences if we puzzle through seemingly unsolvable levels. It is particularly great that we can have our successful run played back automatically at the end!

At around 4 to 6 hours, Timelie‘s length is pleasant and the five chapters of the game don’t stretch out unnecessarily. However, the level of difficulty of the individual stages fluctuates strongly in some cases and the challenges pick up noticeably towards the end.It first seems that only one solution leads to the goal and if you don’t get it, you can get stuck, which can lead to some  frustration. However, the developers have also implemented alternative and sometimes very tricky solutions. If you find them out, you unlock so-called relics and get achievements which provides additional motivation!

The great strength of Timelie is its successful design, which is also reflected in the graphics and sound. In an isometric view, we puzzle through 3D levels which are relatively poor in detail due to their comic style but create a wonderful feeling of loneliness in their simplicity. The whole thing is accompanied by spherical sounds and dreamy piano music that fits wonderfully into the calm atmosphere of the game. It’s only in the few action-packed passages that musics pumps up the rhythm.

Timelie focuses on the essentials and here the game succeeds excellently: an innovative and challenging puzzle mechanic, a simple presentation and an appropriate pacing with a balanced level of difficulty. Only the story of the game and especially the mind-bending finale left us in confusion rather than explaining any of our initial questions – that’s a shame, because we would have liked to know more about the girl, her cat and their background stories. But since the gameplay is particularly well done and at the essence, Timelie has become an almost perfect puzzle game with which you should definitely spend your time!

Timelie is available for PC on Steam. This review is based on a free review copy provided by the game’s PR agency.

Andreas Betsche

Andreas Betsche founded Virtual SEA in early 2016 after researching Cambodian mobile games for his Master’s thesis. He has a background in Southeast Asia studies and has worked and lived in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Since he has been actively playing games since the early 90s, combing both worlds in Virtual SEA brought together both of his passions.

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