No Time to Explain Review

By Michelle Balsan, 1 year ago
Imagine the following scenario:

It's a (possibly) beautiful (maybe) Spring day, and you're doing exactly what it is you always choose to do on a (possibly) beautiful (maybe) Spring day - sit at home and do something involving the TV.

Got that part? Excellent.

Now, imagine a hole is suddenly blasted through your home, and through it pops future you. If you're like most people, you may want, nay demand, an explanation for this activity. Just as you wrap your brain around this and go to ask what's going on, future you states "I am you from the future. There's no time to explain!" just before getting abducted by a giant alien crab. Resolute in your goal to save your future self - and perhaps get an explanation, you grab the laser beam gun that was conveniently left behind and start on your quest to save your future self.

Sound like an interesting way to start your afternoon right?

There's no time to explain!There's no time to explain!

Therein lies the premise of tinyBuildGAMES first Xbox One offering via the ID@Xbox program, No Time To Explain. The game is a platformer in the vein of Super Meat Boy in that deaths come fast and frequent, but there's satisfaction to be found in finally mastering the difficulties that each level presents. At the outset, No Time to Explain is frustrating. Originally built as a Flash game, the controls were initially built for a mouse and keyboard and the mapping to a controller is counter-intuitive. Unlike most games, where pressing A leads to jumping, No Time To Explain maps control information to the A button. Jumping is instead done using the left trigger. Attached to the right trigger is whatever weapon is being used in that series of stages. While it is most frequently a high-powered laser, it can also be a shotgun or a sort of flinging mechanic that can be used to explore stages.

Look! It's a Giant Enemy Crab!Look! It's a Giant Enemy Crab!

Once again, at the outset, the controls are frustrating. The lead character doesn't jump particularly well and using any of the weapons has a blow back effect. Once it clicks, however, that the weapon in use and its blow back effect is as much a means of travel as it is a means to defend yourself, the gameplay becomes easier to grasp. This isn't to say things make perfect sense at that point; there are times where it seems that movement is inconsistent - sometimes firing at one angle leads to much higher heights than others where such a thing isn't expected - but mastering this movement mechanism will improve enjoyment of the game immensely. It's easy to dismiss the title at first blush, but it becomes fun once the controls make sense.

You know you've had a rough day when chasing future-you-that's-being-eaten-by-a-shark isn't the worst thing that's happened to youYou know you've had a rough day when chasing future-you-that's-being-eaten-by-a-shark isn't the worst thing that's happened to you

There are several different worlds in the game, each with some unique gameplay element. For example, there is a shotgun world where you wield a weapon that hurls you across the screen once it's fired. There's a cake world where consuming the tasty treat will immediately engorge the protagonist, allowing him to roll down slopes to either clear large gaps or break through certain barriers. With each new world comes a new adjustment to how the weapons operate and how that particular version of you moves. Sometimes, it feels as though using a controller robs the player of the precision necessary to complete the task at hand, but everything is doable. As is the case with the super-difficult style of platformers, a lot of trial and error is required. Thankfully, outside of getting used to exactly how the laser affects movement, the controls are pretty tight. Deaths are usually cheap by design, not cheap because of flawed controls or other glitchiness. In games where difficulty is the goal, it's imperative that it doesn't feel like the game is robbing the player of the opportunity to succeed because of programming faults, and No Time to Explain checks the right boxes to that end. Along with the trials of learning each world's unique hook, each level is capped by a boss level, which is the only time when lives are limited. Most of the patterns for the boss fights aren't difficult to figure out, but getting through the entirety of them on a life-budget where the rest of the game doesn't penalize you at all is something to be aware of.

What a tasty looking living... cupcake... thingWhat a tasty looking living... cupcake... thing

As each world is completed, it can then be selected from a hub, meaning there's plenty of opportunity to go back and master tricky parts of the game. Many of the levels in the game contain hats, which serve as the game's collectible component. These are often tucked away in some difficult-to-reach corner, but thankfully, once they're collected, there's no need to reach the end of a level in the same life. Further, the game does an excellent job tracking collection progress in the level select hub. Once the core game is completed, an additional Minecraft inspired world becomes available (and it includes hats!), as does a collection of user-created levels. The core game will take most people around 4-6 hours, so it's a nice bonus to have these additional levels to extend the gameplay.

What tale of time travel would be complete without a UFO?What tale of time travel would be complete without a UFO?

The achievements in No Time to Explain are difficult, so tread carefully if you're a completionist. In one of those deals that will make some groan, the first achievement in the game is a complete softball - just start it up, and there you go, achievement unlocked. There is only one other natural progression achievement, and that's for completing the game. There are two achievements for collecting hats - getting half and getting all. The remainder of the achievements involve completing specific tasks in that game's stages, such as dancing through the first stage or wearing specific hats while conquering certain levels. While the game is difficult (as a side note, those who are masters of this type of game probably won't find it too bad, this sentiment is aimed at people who don't specialize in this genre), don't let the ratios fool you completely. Apparently, achievements will unlock during the demo, so that will inflate ratios. Don't mistake the game for a walk in the park, however. Some of the level-specific achievements do involve not dying, and in a game that's designed to kill you at every turn, these may test the limits of your frustration.

Summary

No Time to Explain is going to be a love-it-or-hate-it type title for most people because it is unapologetically difficult. If you enjoy those ultra difficult games and the challenge they provide, you'll love this. Otherwise you just won't. When I started the game I was frustrated by the frequent deaths and seeming lack of direction. As I played on, however, my attitude changed. The laser gun being used as a mode of transport is generally fine, but sometimes it's a little finicky, and this can lead to undue frustration in an area where precision is really required. As you stick with it, you learn how to better finesse the use of the laser beam and get that feeling of satisfaction for completing something difficult that many games don't supply. If the thought of dying frequently is a turn off for you, the game will only prove to be frustrating. If you enjoy games that bring the difficulty, this is a top-level game for you to grab and brag to all your friends about once you complete it.
3.5 / 5
Positives
  • Fast and frenetic action
  • Generally solid controls
  • Difficult achievement list (if you're into that kind of thing)
Negatives
  • Frequent, sometimes unfair, deaths
  • A little bit of a learning curve
  • Difficult achievement list (if that's a turn off for you)
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately six hours dying 950 times in order to collect five of No Time to Explain's ten achievements. A review code was provided by the publisher.
Michelle Balsan
Written by Michelle Balsan
Michelle is the Assistant Manager of the Newshounds at TrueAchievements and has been a member of staff since 2010. When not contributing to gaming websites, she makes her living as a mild-mannered librarian. She can be compelled to play just about anything if there's a co-op component, and has been playing games with friends and siblings since the Atari 2600. As it's reportedly healthy to have hobbies outside of gaming, she also roots for some of the most difficult sporting franchises to root for, the New York Mets and New York Jets, but offsets that by rooting for the New Jersey Devils. She's also seen pretty much none of the movies you have, but she's working on that.