Time Loader is a small story-driven puzzle-platformer where you go back in time and explore a ‘90s house full of nostalgia and throwbacks. Though some of the puzzles linger a bit, the surprisingly dark tone and ambient audio intrigued me to explore the story of Time Loader.
Time Loader begins with a short sequence of still images and a narrator describing a traumatic moment in his life where he tripped over a toy car in a tree house and lost the ability to walk. This formative moment then pushed him towards utilizing his mind by not only creating a high-functioning, autonomous, (and cute) robot, but form a method of traveling back in time and altering the future. The ideal future, according to the narrator, is removing the accident from existence so he can be ‘fixed’. I was utterly dumbfounded by the darkness of this story within the first seconds of the game. Aside from some lighter comments from the robot, the tone remains the same as you forge towards a new future.
Like other time traveling stories among movies, books, and video games, Time Loader showcases and demonstrates constant callbacks to previous moments of the game. Each item in the earlier beats of the game are on purpose, where a step in time isn’t wasted. The entire time I played this game, I felt very specific inspirations from other time travel stories, but done in a way that makes it its own story. To avoid any spoilers or major clues, I will let you see for yourself.
Following this dark introduction of the throughline within Time Loader, I was able to begin exploring the linear levels and solving simple puzzles. The robot that you operate has limited functions to start – directional movement and grabbing items – but throughout the game you obtain upgrades and different abilities that start to color in the variety of the game and complexity of the puzzles. Granted, none of the puzzles will likely stump you indefinitely, but there is a breadth of micro-exploration within each level that will have you experimenting a bit if you find yourself stuck. Since each section is 5-10 minutes, you’re constantly finding yourself at different points of the house or even retreading areas, but with a new lens. The levels keep themselves moving (pun intended) and never overstay or over frustrate the experience. The three act story offers a 2-3 hour story, capping it off with a satisfying ending that is always a challenge to navigate with time traveling arcs.
The mostly real-life physics mechanics were a fun highlight for me. More often than not, games have strange physics properties that defy our typical expectation of gravity, pulley systems, and other physics foundations. However, Time Loader’s focus on accurate momentum and the six simple machines, is a fun exercise of creating accurate scenarios (or as best as you can with this type of game) to force players to analyze a game’s problem in a situation that could be realistically answered if you were to replicate the problem in real life.
Presentation-wise, Time Loader looks wonderful with its 2D levels and 3D designed items. There’s no shortage of ‘90s nostalgia with GameBoy’s galore, Kitchen-Aides, and other little nods that I’ll let you find for yourselves to enjoy. Sound design is purposely void, but rather accentuates all the pitter patter noises that the robot rolls over. Wooden planks, drying racks, and books, seem to all have unique sounds and tones, which is a nice touch for a game that is very solitary. The score also has ambient trills and melodies throughout, but with a dark undertone that constantly harkens back to the beginning of the game and the robot’s purpose.
Overall 8.0 out of 10
Time Loader is a great time traveling game with a satisfying story, fair puzzles, and emotional undertone. The concise story gave me an opportunity to play over a few sittings and still feel like I was getting a meaningful experience. Time Loader is certainly worth your time (no time traveling required).
A copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review on Nintendo Switch.
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A version of this review is also posted on Six One Indie.