Chronotron

By Alec Meer on May 8th, 2008 at 6:07 pm.

You had me at “time-travelling robots.”

Chronotron: Lemmings with paradoxes. It’s a cute, smart puzzle game in which you overcome obstacles with the help of your past selves. Kind of like Back to the Future 2. Kind of.

It hinges more on timing and memorisation than Prince of Persian time-rewinding (though that is an option in the event of minor error) – if a door can only be unlocked by standing on a nearby switch, you need to go stand on that switch for a few seconds. Then trundle back to your TARDIS, hit space, and a clone of yourself will spawn. He’ll duly repeat your exact actions up to that point – so while he’s stood on the switch, you nip through the door. Simple, right?

Not for long. Skip forward a few levels and you’re managing maybe four versions of yourself. Not only are you working out the timings necessary to unlock your path through the level, and ensuring each of those clones is set up to do exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, but you need to be careful not to cause a paradox – for instance, accidentally locking in one of your innocent time-clones so he can’t return to the TARDIS. If he can’t return, then you could never be where you are now and… ow.

I kept finding myself annoyed because one of the other robots was doing something wrong – leaving a switch too soon, or foolishly getting himself stranded in a pit, and every time I had to remind myself “no, he’s me. Even though he’s right there on the screen, behaving apparently autonomously, he’s an exact mirror of my earlier actions. Anything he does wrong is my fault entirely.” And then I would flagellate myself 200 times, until I knew better.

Chronotron quickly becomes fairly challenging, but in such a way that you’ll feel remarkably smug for 10 ten minutes after besting a troublesome level. Alternatively, you’ll take one look at the next level, attempt to picture quite how many time-displaced robots you’ll need to navigate all its doors, bridges, switches and elevators, and feel remarkably tired all of a sudden.

Certainly I feel worn out after wrapping my head around a few levels, but also satisfied and pleased – you really should go play this.

With Braid also promising time-travelling brainy platforming in the (hopefully) not too distant, it’s shaping up to be quite the year for indie chrononauts.

, , .

23 Comments »

  1. Ging says:

    I’ve had some issues with the previous versions of yourself breaking – I’m not sure if it’s because of something I’m doing with the current droid or just the replay stuff spacking out slightly.

  2. nabeel says:

    Trying the game out in a bit, but from the description I’m reminded of this game, which is pretty cool.

    nabeel

  3. Ging says:

    Yeah, it is a bit like cursor 10 – same principal of using previous versions to do useful things.

  4. MedO says:

    Sotty to go OT, but I’ve just noticed again with this article that the links are not quickly recognisable for me (more generally, probably for many red-green blind people). IIRC links in the text have once been bold on this site, could that be done again or does it break the flow of the text too much? I’m asking more for other people, I simply made those links bold for me with Stylish.

    I’m off trying the game now. ;)

  5. Ginger Yellow says:

    Cursor 10 was great – one of the best pieces of pure game design I’d seen in a while. If this is anything like that it should be awesome. And frustrating.

  6. MedO says:

    The game appears to be not completely accurate regarding the behaviour of your previous selves. I’m trying level 16 for the manyest time now, using two instances and without using the pause circuit. Everything works just as planned and the second instance interferes in no way with the first, but the first still seems to be a bit off every time, so that it gets destroyed or stuck and doesn’t manage to return.

    But apart from that, great little puzzler.

  7. brog says:

    yeah, past selves are buggy. got sick of having to repeat stuff because they went off course.

  8. Jahkaivah says:

    Not saying its bad… its actually an improvement on what we have had before… but its not original.

    Blinx aside…

    -A Good Hunch (I swear the goats are humping each other)

    -Cursor 10 (Already mentioned)

    -Timebot (Yes… time traveling robots… )

  9. Cavalcadeofcats says:

    Aah! There went an hour.

    Fun! Though the occasional glitchiness is pretty annoying, and the music is nothing to write home about.

    I like the failure screens.

  10. Pod says:

    Ack! You deliberately put the link right at the bottom of the text, thus forcing me to actually read the content you guys create!

    Well, never again. Never.

  11. aiusepsi says:

    There’s something about games which involve time-travel and avoiding causality violation that just make me all tingly inside.

    I think my fondest current dream is to make a turn-based space-sim in which relativity is taken into account. Your turns occur at regular intervals with respect to your local clock, but that may not run at the same rate as everyone else’s.

    If I really have a lot of time on my hands, I could model it with general relativity too, so then getting close to a black hole would do Very Bad Things to your turn frequency…

    Yeh, I’m a huge nerd. There’s no point in denying it.

  12. yaa says:

    aiusepsi – make sure the orders propagate at lightspeed too. Then it’d make sense to load your command staff on a relativistic rocket and chase the front line, getting the orders there faster at a cost of not being able to make so many (and completely screwing your oversight of any second fronts).

  13. brog says:

    aiusepsi – I recommend reading Stephen Baxter’s Exultant.

  14. Cooper says:

    Cute, it reminded me of ‘Timebot’ http://casualgameplay.com/cgdc3/?gameID=6
    Also, check out Super Earth Defense Game!, timerider and some of the others at JIG’s game deisgn competition on ‘Replay’
    http://jayisgames.com/archives/2007/06/game_design_competition_3.php

  15. Ginger Yellow says:

    aiusepsi: have you played Relativistic Asteroids?

  16. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Pretty fun game.

  17. The Shed says:

    Holy shit awesome. I was sold at the first two paragraphs. I’m playing this.

  18. KBKarma says:

    Niiiice!

    I’m stuck on 18. Not due to any difficulties with the timing, but because it requires PIN-POINT accuracy. Also, Bonus 5 has me in knots. LOGIC knots.

    Fun, though.

  19. Jim Greer says:

    Thanks for the writeup! The developer fixed the bugs with past selves getting out of sync, btw.

  20. zima says:

    Reminds me of great Net Yaroze game Time Slip
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yc_quc8BT0o

    From the author:
    “I actually managed to get on the cover of the Official Playstation Magazine in the UK. The game was called “Time Slip” and every 60 seconds you went back in time, meaning you could encounter earlier version of yourself which you had to avoid. It was a puzzle game really because you had to make use of the multiple copies of yourself to open doors and things like that.”

    I was really hooked up by this one for a long time…the thing that this one didn’t have any obvious bugs helped a lot.

    BTW, since it could be dangerous here to discuss only Net Yaroze game in comment ;) (especially since I imply it’s more bug free)…seems somebody once made a copy for PC (but didn’t recover his files yet…)
    http://lightdev.wordpress.com/projects/timeslip/

  21. faxless payday loans says:

    seems somebody once made a copy for PC (but didn’t recover his files yet

  22. kennycrown says:

    Yeah, it is a bit like cursor 10 – same principal of using previous versions to do useful things.