No Time To Explain began life as a flash game on Newgrounds before eventually making its way to a full release on Steam in 2013, although it certainly had some hiccups in the form of glitches and technical problems. Now it has finally released on a home console, specifically for the Xbox One so that those who game in their living rooms can get a chance to play the platformer.
The game is essentially a microplatformer, with the overall experience split into tiny levels that can be completed very quickly before moving onto the next stage. In this way, it is very similar to the likes of Super Meat Boy and Cloudberry Kingdom. Another trait it shares with those two is that it is super difficult to navigate through many of the levels, especially nearer the end, making it a pretty challenging game and one that certainly has the capacity to frustrate those not well versed in the genre.
You start off in your house when you are accosted by someone claiming to be your future self. Before he can fully explain the situation a giant crab breaks through the wall and grabs you from the future and makes off with him. This will end up being a running joke throughout the campaign, as the cause of all of the problems is never fully revealed until the end thanks to the fact that various monsters and enemies interrupt the character while he is attempting to clarify the situation. All that is left after the kidnapping is a futuristic laser gun that not only destroys blocks and kills enemies but also provides thrust, allowing you to fly through the air and avoid obstacles. This will become the main mechanic on which the entire game hinges as you quest to save your future self.
As a microplatformer, No Time To Explain works fairly well. Although they can be very difficult, the vast majority of the levels that you encounter seem completely fair. You get the usual obstacles to clear and avoid, including spikes, fire pits, inconveniently placed walls, as well as some interesting new traps such as laser beams and water cubes. Completion of each section requires careful timing, fast reflexes and a good understanding of how the laser gun works, although the difficulty will mean that you end up dying a lot. This is mitigated by the fact that you instantly respawn and are not hampered with a set number of lives, something that Super Meat Boy demonstrated can be essential to keeping the player engaged and focused without getting irritated by the constant deaths.
The central mechanic of the blue laser works well for the most part. However, it sometimes suffers from feeling too imprecise for a game of this type so that instead of relying on skill it can feel as if luck has played a major part in the completion of a level. This is especially evident when the physics appear to be inconsistent, with gravity seemingly having a random effect on the player that sometimes allows you to fly very far with a slight press of the gun but in other occasions leaves you hovering above the ground with the same action. This ultimately means that while playing No Time To Explain you will never get the feeling of mastery that you got when beating levels in other equally challenging platformers as it is impossible to tell whether what was the exact cause of success.
As the game progresses, other mechanics are introduced that take a rather novel spin on what has previously been established. Unfortunately these are few and far between. Often you will only just get to grips with the way a new feature works before it is taken away never to return, leaving a feeling of dissatisfaction that it hasn’t been explored more thoroughly. There’s also a collectible system which tasks the player with finding an assortment of hats scattered throughout the game, offering some replayability in the quest to find them all.
Unarguably the biggest drawback to No Time To Explain is the excruciating boss fights. This is not just because they are very hard, which they are, either. It is more that they seem so out of place with the rest of the game. They rarely build on what you have learned throughout the buildup to them and instead of relying on you solving the puzzle of how to clear a stage they are simply long drawn out affairs that have to be fought over and over again. The boss fights are unfair thanks to their one hit kill powers and last too long in comparison with the short levels you encounter throughout the rest of the story.
As you might expect from a title that began life as a game on Newgrounds, the visuals are not exactly cutting edge. It has its own style that makes it feel distinctive in much the same way as games like Castle Crashers but it fails to look as well done or as smooth in terms of graphics and animation. Luckily, the sound is a vast improvement with each level given a unique composition that fits perfectly, making the soundtrack something of a standout feature, although the sound effects for the weapons and mechanics are somewhat limited.
Overall, No Time To Explain is a short game that will appeal to fans of the likes of Super Meat Boy. It introduces a number of interesting concepts and gameplay mechanics but is let down by the fact that it fails to expand on them and by the poor boss fights that suck out the joy and cause immense frustration. If you can get past those issues though, you will be met with a game that at its most basic form is fun, funny and full of charm.
A copy of No Time To Explain was provided by tinyBuild Games for review purposes. The game is available on the Xbox Store right now and is priced at $14.99.