While I played Timelie, I thought a lot about the title of the game. From the logo, it’s obviously a play on the word timeline but, without the N, we can think about it as time lie or timely. It’s a simple and inventive title, because the game indeed carries all these meanings.
Nintendo Switch, Windows PC and macOS
Developed by Urnique Studio
Published by Zordix
Released: 15th December 2021
£17.99 on the Nintendo eShop
This is a puzzle game with a simple premise and inspired design, which brings a feeling of true satisfaction each time we solve a challenge. We follow the story of a girl and a cat who are trying to escape a mysterious world full of robots trying to capture them. There are no words here; the story is told purely through visuals and sounds, so many details are left to the player’s interpretation. I appreciated that, since I find it a distraction when characters talk to me while working on difficult puzzles.
The main mechanics of the game are easy enough to explain. In each level, we navigate through doors, buttons, panels and robots controlling the girl and/or the cat. Each character has a unique ability: the girl can rewind time to reconstruct bridges or dismantle robots, while the cat can meow to distract enemies.
We don’t directly control the characters with the analogue stick; rather, we move a pointer and “click” on where we want them to go. It’s very clear that the game was designed to be controlled with a mouse, so using the analogue stick doesn’t always work very well. Luckily, the Switch port also sports nice touch controls — thus I strongly recommend playing the game in portable mode. Unfortunately, not every action can be performed solely via touch, so you’ll still need to have those Joy-cons around, but after I got the hang of it, the combination of touch and button controls made the game much more enjoyable than when I tried it with the Pro Controller.
The distinguishing twist of the game, as the title implies, is that we can freely adjust the timeline in each level. Advancing time allows us to observe patterns, we can rewind to try different strategies, and of course we can simply pause to think and look around. In many ways, Timelie is like a stealth game, but less punishing, since we can explore opportunities without having to redo everything when we’re caught. Normally, the game doesn’t require absolute precision, but sometimes we must be perfectly punctual to move or use a power. Then again, it’s always possible to adjust the timeline until you find that sweet spot, so it’s never a hassle.
Timelie has five chapters, each exploring a different twist on the concept. Following good puzzle design principles, the first levels are relatively straightforward, then new mechanics are introduced, expanded and combined to form complex and even unexpected situations. There are some bumps in the difficulty curve; sometimes I felt like one level was much easier than the previous one, which can feel a bit disappointing, but I never got bored of the mechanics or the levels. There were two or three times that I got really stumped on a puzzle. I had to put the game down and come back later with a fresh mind, which helped me find the solution. To me, this is a sign of a great puzzle.
Finally, it’s also worth noting that Timelie has a free DLC (already included in the Switch port) including devilishly difficult levels that must first be unlocked by satisfying specific objectives in the regular levels (for example, not killing robots or using the timeline efficiently). I only tried two of these levels so far: one was very challenging but I eventually figured it out, while I still don’t know how to solve the second one. Clearly, the developers at Urnique are far from running out of creativity.
I really enjoyed playing Timelie. It is a cute and charming game that shows a lot of potential, considering it is the first title released by the developer. During those hours, I went through the loop of discovering a new mechanic, exploring how it affects the characters and level and discovering how to use it to my advantage several times, which is a process I tend to love in good puzzle games. The main campaign can be finished in a few hours, but the free DLC offers plenty of extra content for whoever wants it.
Final Rating – 4 out of 5