Wot I Think: No Time To Explain

By John Walker on January 28th, 2013 at 6:00 pm.

If I were a lesser being, I’d introduce this piece about No Time To Explain with some sort of joke about how I do indeed have time to explain, and I’ve done exactly that below. But I’m not. I’m the even worse sort of being who writes it anyway, but pretends he’s above it. Here’s wot I think:

When No Time To Explain is a micro-platformer, tiny levels requiring you to use precision skills/mad luck, it’s a real treat. When No Time To Explain forgets itself, and delivers one of its tedious insta-kill boss fights, it’s a miserable and stupid game that should be buried beneath a volcano. Fortunately it’s the treat most of the time. Sadly those tiresome bosses naturally stand in your path.

The entirely daft game sees you appear to yourself from the future, trying to warn you of something before being snatched away by a giant crab-thing. He drops a very powerful laser weapon thing, and off you pursue. It’s both a weapon, and a thrust-propelling rocketty-thingamy, and that’s the key here. It’s about negotiating extremely small levels using this gravity-rebuking doo-hicky, bouncing off walls, dodging spikes, clearing large gaps, and generally feeling like the coolest person alive when you get it right.

The real masterstroke here is the restarting. Almost all of the time, if you mess up anywhere in a level it instantly respawns you on the last safe surface on which you’d stood. None of this whole-level-again crap that would make negotiating the trickiest of challenges a real chore, but instead a non-stop charging, perfectly in tune with the game’s own frantic nature.

Which is why the boss fights defy everything about the game. It’s as if it were a study in reductio ad absurdum, a pastiche of why boss fights are so often incongruous to the game they’re in, how they remove the flow, change the rules, and spike the difficulty. A game that’s primarily about micro-challenges, repeating a section again and again in split-second gaps, suddenly grinds to a halt and makes you fight something with unclear guidelines, and forcing you to start over from scratch if you fail at any point.

And it’s not just because I’m crap at them. I definitely am, but most of them don’t present too impossible a challenge – they just serve to break the game’s rhythm. Then when I do meet something that I struggle with, it’s frustration cubed. I want to be enjoying the super-tricky levels themselves, not having to start the same dull routine yet again, because farther into it there’s a moment of brutal unfairness.

Mad, brutal persistence eventually got me past a fight with some beaver thing, that was not only brutally unfair, but also glitchy and really poorly designed. With sore hands from thumping the desk, and a headache from getting just so wound by it, I’m past it. And thank goodness, because on the other side the game changes itself once more, swapping the propelling gun for a sucking one. At this point you click on the screen to draw the character in that direction, creating yet another set of tiny, super-tough challenges to thoroughly enjoy. Then in the next set of levels you’re consuming giant slices of cake in order to become fat enough to roll through walls.

It’s this up-beat level of silliness that gives the game its charm, especially in the sequences in which an increasing number of yous from the future start muddling up what on Earth is going on.

So that’s the deal. A mixture of really fun, nice and challenging mini-levels driven forward by the instant restarting, and the either dreary boredom or abject misery of boss fights. At a fiver, I think I’d still call this one well worthwhile, despite my aching hands and head.

You can play a less good version of the game for free over on Newgrounds, or buy it from Steam here.

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39 Comments »

  1. Rhin says:

    No time to comment

  2. Jockie says:

    No time to finish thi

  3. LionsPhil says:

    “SS Easter Egg Text”. Tee-hee.

    Saw a friend wishlist this on Steam the other day and played the Flash version. Ended up getting the dinosaurs-with-glasses ending. Decided that meant I better add it to mine, too.

    Shame to hear about the boss fights, though.

  4. Ross Angus says:

    If only someone would write a meta-game about having to defeat boss battles, from the ideas meetings of studios.

    • Dominic White says:

      I propose that game developers be legally forbidden from even trying to design a boss fight until they have played and beaten both Alien Soldier and Contra Hardcorps (The easier Japanese version is allowed) on the Genesis/Megadrive. Both of them are fantastic, and both consist of about 90% boss battles.

      They can be the best part of a game if done right, but very few US and EU studios seem capable of even coming close to Treasure or Konami’s insight into their design.

      • Ross Angus says:

        Yup, yup. I struggle with boss battles, but I appreciate there’s a time and a place for them. Wasn’t Dark Souls a series of them?

        • nearly says:

          you’re thinking of Shadow of the Colossus (by which I mean I realize that you may not be entirely serious, but this would be the more apt reference). bosses were a high point in the Souls series, but they were well-designed and an integral part of that sort of classic game design, and made sense in context. there was still a lot more to the game and the difficulty could be quite crushing even without bosses proper

      • Premium User Badge

        ffordesoon says:

        Yes.

        Though I would add that whatever else you want to say about Hideo Kojima, the man knows how to design an amazing boss battle. MGS3 in particular is a master class in boss design.

        Of course, MGS3 is a master class in a lot of things, for all its Kojiman excesses and insanities. If only the first couple of hours weren’t so dreadfully non-interactive.

        “MMM, THAT’S REALLY TASTY!”

        God, I love that game.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      It’s called Dues Ex: Human Revolution.

  5. Dowr says:

    So, yet more terrible boss fights? Hm… not big surprise.

  6. Text_Fish says:

    My Smartphone does not appreciate this recent trend for large animated gifs. My PC LOVES them though.

    I might buy this game.

  7. mckertis says:

    How about explaining why you had no time to play it 2 years ago, when it was released ?
    Or the sequel that was released 1 year ago.
    This news item has, frankly, gone off awhile ago.

  8. Innovacious says:

    The ending to this game pretty much sums it up and explains everything with a single word. Unfortunately, I cannot find the ending to the paid version online without some guy talking all over it.

  9. Proteus454 says:

    I wanted to like this, I really did. I supported it more or less from the start, in fact. Got season 1, season 2, all that…Enjoyed the daft, manic style, although had some of the same boss-type problems.

    Then came the level that made fun of indie and “artistic” cliches. Which was kinda tooth-grating, because it was the kind of parody one makes when one is fairly guilty of the behaviour being granted and/or you’re just doing it to score points.

    And then came the end. VIDEO GAMES indeed.

    Not only was it a rather stunning anti-climax, but it’s exactly the sort of thing they’d deploy in a hoity-toity-oohlookatuswe’resocrowdsourcedandotherbuzzwords piece o’ crap, EXACTLY LIKE THE ONE THEY JUST FINISHED PARODYING. I felt genuinely frustrated to have played some small part in helping that get made.

    Oversensitive? Digging too deep? I honestly don’t think so – and either way, it obliterated the enjoyment and good will I’d been experiencing up until that point, so well done NTtE.

    • MrLebanon says:

      I have not played it… but could it not have just been luls for the sake of luls? The entire game seems to give that impression

      • Proteus454 says:

        Not inconceivable, I suppose. But it really DID come off, to me, as trying to have their cake and spit on it too.

  10. patrick says:

    The first two boss fights that I’ve done so far have been insta-respawn without losing progress on death – but it sounds like that won’t always be the case. I’m torn because I want John to be mistaken, but I know he won’t be.

  11. doggod101 says:

    Huh if Super Meat Boy had that respawn system maybe it would have been fun rather than more tedious and pain inducing than bashing your head against a wall.

    • Dozer says:

      Super Meat Boy lied to me. I played it with a keyboard, and it was frustrating and I died. It told me an XBox controller would make things better. So when I got an XBox controller I tried again. It was frustrating and I died. You lied to me, Super Meat Boy…

  12. bigjig says:

    For as much as people love to say that the Japanese game industry is in tatters, compared to Japanese developers western game developers just cannot design a good boss battle if their lives depended on it.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      That’s true, if a little general.

      On the other hand, the ability to design amazing boss battles alone will not save the Japanese game industry.

      • Premium User Badge

        RedViv says:

        Except if they could all make adaptations of Colossus in various different genres. Then. Maybe. Possibly.

  13. HaVoK308 says:

    Bought it immediately and was disappointed with the lack of gamepad support. The kb/m controls are not ideal. At least for me. Surprised they opted not to include default 360 controller support like most games today. Especially platformers. Unless I am missing something.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      Right now, in an alternate universe, someone is furious that they didn’t include keyboard and mouse controls.

      He is being roundly mocked.

      It is a better universe. Only slightly, but it is.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Given it requires precision angular input, why would you want to cripple yourself with thumbsticks?

  14. MondSemmel says:

    Such a horrible, horrible game. I played the game before the Steam version came out, which supposedly fixed a few things. Well, the version _I_ played sounds a lot like this one, but definitely not worth playing:

    The devs had a few semi-decent ideas (altogether, there are at least four different ways characters can move, all controlled with the mouse), but they spent their time and budget creating short, semi-neat cartoon movie sequences instead of polishing their core gameplay. The result was a sad example of all style, no substance.

    The boss fights at the end of most levels were a major issue, too. They were boring, lacked far too much feedback (specifically, I hardly ever knew whether I was even damaging the boss until something happened a few minutes later; astoundingly, there was no boss health bar, either) and similarly didn’t give any indication what was supposed to happen when the player took damage. Sometimes nothing happened, sometimes the level restarted…Amazingly bad.
    And yes, the worst moment was definitely this: “Mad, brutal persistence eventually got me past a fight with some beaver thing, that was not only brutally unfair, but also glitchy and really poorly designed.”

    The game is also incredibly buggy and glitchy. Examples: No collision detection at the game screen borders, meaning you could often walk outside the levels; Season 1 ended with a boss fight so glitchy that I managed to have it bug out by entering the game menu; the final boss level of the whole game even contains some obvious level editing artifacts; and so on.

    Yet another example of a game that did not deserve to get on Steam, but did.
    Do not get this game. I’d say everyone (the press, the Kickstarter backers, etc.) got trolled by the initial video…

  15. Frogslime says:

    I thought and still think it’s a great game, it has the excellent Newgrounds style humor as well as its own hilarious kind. The platforming was just right for a seasoned gamer like me, and the different play styles kept it from becoming repetitive. I fail to see why many people hate this game because of some glitches it has. it may have some bad bosses (especially the mole boss) and it may have glitches, but it also had some great platforming for those used to platformers, Laugh out Loud humor (especially the awesome and funny ending that made me actually want to cheer!) and a very memorable story. So if you are the kind of person who hates being challenged and can’t stand glitches (like MondSemmel) then by all means don’t get this game, but don’t go around saying that everyone will hate it. I loved No Time To Explain.

    So in conclusion: Very funny, Good challenge for platforming gamers, some bad bosses, some glitches, great voice acting, great music. 8.2 out of 10.

    p.s. I have the soundtrack with all the songs on it, the only thing missing is that screaming future guy.