And with that we are another year closer to the eagerly anticipated cooling of all matter. You may have read that the concept of weeks, months and years is the culmination of humanity’s collective understanding of a complicated astronomical pattern. It’s an interesting take. However, the correct hypothesis was posited by your stoner housemate Jed from university. “Time is, like, a construct,” he said, with the deep wisdom and clarity only three tins of San Miguel can deliver. “The Chinese have a totally different calendar, y’know. Do you want to order takeaway?”
So let’s chronicle games about time, specifically those that prove the passing of years is nothing but a directionless tumble through the jelly-like substance of spacetime. Here are 9 games about time travel. But which of them would you undo?
There is no better symbolic gesture of time’s callous supremacy than looting a shiny watch from a dead man’s wrist. Titanfall 2 gives you such a corspewatch, one that lets you zap from one timeline to another like Marty McFly with a machine gun. In the level “Effect and Cause” you do temporal parkour through a derelict enemy science lab, blipping into the shiny past to get around the crumbled walls of the present, and blipping back to the ruins again to take cover from enemy gunfire. It’s the highlight of a short but rollicking campaign, Titanfallists will often cry. They’re incorrect. The best bit is the training gauntlet, which is also a reminder of our continual second-by-second decay. Here’s what a good gauntlet run looks like. And here’s a great one.
In this alternate reality tank spammer, everyone’s favourite patent clerk Albert Einstein travels back through time to kill Hitler with a zappy handshake, making it the politest assassination in the history of Adolf-killing speculation. With no Nazism, the Soviet Union goes hog wild on Eastern Europe and China, munching up land like a communist Cookie Monster. The Allies get annoyed and war done get warred anyway. But this history-distorting device has bugger-all presence in the game itself, which remains classic RTS stuff. Only the Chronosphere makes use of Albert’s time-twiddling tech. And it’s only a flashy house that teleports a lone unit across the map. That’s not time travel. That’s just travel.
Max “Clock Hands” Caulfield is a student who discovers she has the power to rewind people as if they were big VHS tapes made of flesh. As the player, this means wibbling time backwards to save lives and freezing the world to poke your nose in everybody’s business. Your world-altering power is also used to make yourself look like a dweeb par excellence, cribbing the answers to pop quizzes imposed upon you by pretentious college mates. Also, a bunch of people die. To be honest, the whole game is an episode of Bernard’s Watch written by sad French people.
The villain of the objectively best Final Fantasy is a time-teetering witch god called Ultimecia who can possess other people just by sleeping and dreaming about the past. Others on this list need a machine, but Ulty can time warp just by having a lie down and feeling nostalgic. She can send her very vibe back through time. What a strong lady. Her ultimate desire is to “compress” time like a big WinZip file. And, honestly, who can blame her.
Well done, videogames. It only took you 26 years to figure out that Groundhog Day’s conceit was perfectly suited to a medium dedicated to repetition and death. (Huh? Majora’s what? Never heard of it.) While the Sexy Brutale used a time loop to indulge the player in an endless murder masquerade, playful space exploration game Outer Wilds uses the same gimmick to kill you with an inescapable supernova blast every 22 minutes. I know which eternal cycle of mortal anxiety I prefer.
Don’t worry, 22 minutes is plenty of time to admire the mini solar system, and travel to distant worlds where the sand from one planet falls unceasingly onto another in the shape of a giant hourglass. Outer Wilds is a game that understands the great calmness of non-existence, the sweet release of the coming nothing. All things must end, say the blue alien folk singers of this existentialist relief sim. Enjoy it when it happens. Sit down, roast a marshmallow, have a nice sigh.
Edge Of Tomorrow
Bold choice to make this completely hands-free, but the designers nailed it.
There is no greater emblematic assertion that the Gregorian calendar is an arbitrary attempt to ignore the chaos of existence than when I stab you with my time knife. This Prince Of Persia reboot popularised wall-running and the “undo death” button at the same time. It is Braid for people who do not like wank. It is also framed as an Arabian Nights style story, told by a princely protagonist to a princess who doesn’t know him. So when you hurl the lad to his death too many times in a level, his narrator voiceover pops up on the “game over” screen. “Wait,” he protests, “it didn’t happen like that.” That’s a fun touch, but it also means the eejit is sitting there in the princess’s chamber going: “And then I jumped over the 279th pit of spikes, or was it the 280th? But anyway I fell and died, no wait I didn’t die, ha ha, obviously I didn’t die, where was I?” Imagine being accosted in your own home by a coked-up intruder who keeps telling you about his dreams. That’s what this girl is experiencing. For 10 hours.
A point and click adventure in which an inconvenient bomb sends you back through time to save one of Hitler’s rubbish paintings from going down with the Titanic in 1912, thus making the artwork famous and prompting the anti-semite to continue his art career instead of his fascism career, completely averting World War II. All this without resorting to a single zappy handshake. Take that, Einstein.
One Off The List from… the worst Christmas gifts for PC gamers
Last week we lambasted you with the 8 worst Christmas gifts for gamers. But you decided that one of them deserved more credit. It’s… the life-sized cardboard cutout.
“The lifesize cutout must go,” said commenter “Fnord73”, who argues that a six-foot 2D Batman can deliver quality entertainment, so long as he is “lurking in the driveway.” Fellow list-culler “Excors” agrees, noting a video that claims cardboard cutouts are a bonafide burglar deterrent. “But it does depend on who you choose,” they say, “a cardboard Noel Edmonds was ineffective.”
See you next time!