Challenging and innovative brain teasers in a whimsical world are what make puzzle games fun, and Time Master is full of them. Developed and published by Morpheusz, Time Master is an isometric puzzle game with time travel elements, challenging timed puzzles, and vibrant visuals.
Time Master follows the story of Zeno, a time wizard who accidentally banished his sister and now has to pass the trials of times in order to bring her back. There are 61 challenging puzzles in the game, and you need to solve them in time in order to gain three stars in each puzzle. After hours of playing the game, I still have a handful of unsolved puzzles to tackle, and a few words to share my thoughts on my experience.
Time Master does a good job of presenting the player with challenging logic puzzles. After the first few levels that are there to teach us about the mechanics, they get increasingly harder to figure out, and with it, the satisfaction of solving the puzzle, or even better, getting the elusive three stars for doing it in time also gets more and more enjoyable.
Time Master's levels are isometric puzzles where you have to collect every fragment in order to finish the level. Vertical obstacles, movable boxes, and wooden bridges that collapse after you move over them are some of the ways the game uses to make solving a puzzle more challenging, but our character gets a unique power to help us overcome these obstacles; time travel.
The first stage of each level is to choose a path and a course of actions, do them and hit rewind. This makes Zeno go back to the beginning of the level before anything has changed. At the second stage of the level, you need to do what's necessary to collect every remaining fragment, while the image of your past self repeats what it did before. This rewind mechanic helps us solve puzzles in a variety of ways. At the end of each level, we need to return to a checkpoint, and sometimes in order to collect every fragment, we need to pass collapsible bridges with no way back. This makes it a job for Zeno's past self since both stages of him can collect the fragments and interact with the world, but only the present Zeno needs to go back to the checkpoint.
As we progress through the game, we discover new ways to collaborate with our past self in order to progress. There are some mechanics that the game doesn't directly tell us about, but figuring out how to use the rewind system with other mechanics in the game is part of the challenge, and I don't want to spoil the solutions in this review.
The most fun aspect of puzzles in Time Master is that there is more than one solution to most of them. There were times when I figured out a puzzle and finished it, but I realized it took so long and I needed to be much faster in order to get three stars. This usually meant that there was a more efficient way to solve that particular puzzle in time, and the challenge now was to find it out.
There were more than a few puzzles where I was stuck, but another great thing about Time Master, which more puzzle games should do (but unfortunately most don't), was that you could skip past levels that you couldn't figure out, and come back to them later. This simple feature removes the most harmful aspect of challenging puzzle games; the quit moment. Challenge is fun, but the frustration of being stuck without an idea often overwhelms the intrigue of the puzzle, leading to some players quitting the game temporarily, or completely. I skipped a few levels, and later on, discovered a new mechanic which I didn't know about before, so now I could go back to the unsolved puzzles and look at them with a fresh perspective.
There's also a hint button when you pause a puzzle, but unfortunately, it only takes you to the game's discord channel. The developer is actually giving hints using the spoiler feature of discord when you tell them you are stuck in a level, so , you might find a hint for most levels in the channel or ask for one yourself, but an integrated hint feature would've been much better.
Puzzles were the best part of Time Master, and in order to solve the puzzles, you had to move around the world and navigate the 3D isometric trials. But the controls of the game require some time to get used to. There are a few ways of controlling the character. With the keyboard, with the mouse, or the controller. I imagine the controller would offer the best experience, but as a PC player, I had to stick with the other two choices.
The issue with the keyboard was that the puzzles are set in an isometric world, and we move diagonally most of the time. This meant that navigation with the traditional W, A, S, D movement was a bit challenging. There was also an option to bind the W key to the northeast direction, but for players who play a lot of PC games, this requires rewiring years of muscle memory. In the end, I chose the mouse. It was not the most efficient way, but it was the easiest for my personal taste. There were a few levels where I gave up on getting the three stars. I knew the perfect solution, and I was only off by one or two seconds, but I play puzzle games for the brain teasers, not my boomer motor skills.
The visual design of Time Master is very suitable for its puzzles. Sharp and distinct colors, easy camera controls, a secondary camera where your past self is outside your vision, and to top it off, an adorable and mysterious character design help make the game look pleasing while we wrack our brain for answers.
The only aspect of Time Master that I didn't like, was the story and the voice acting. The story is a typical save the princess scenario with a few time magic elements sprinkled in, and the game would've been fine without it. It's challenging to integrate an engaging story into a puzzle game, and if it's not done right, it will feel forced. I appreciate the effort that was put into the cinematics and world-building, but honestly, I would've preferred a few more puzzles.
Just like the story, the voice acting was not the most enjoyable part of the game for me. It wasn't the quality of the actors, in fact, they were pretty decent. But when I first saw the key art of the game, I imagined Zeno to be a quirky and funny character, with a few inaudible cute voice effects. The actual voice of Zeno seemed way too real and serious for the atmosphere of the game, and it just didn't fit.
But these last two complaints are just personal preferences, and minor ones at that. Time Masters is a good-looking puzzle game, and when it comes to mind-bending challenges and creative and unique solutions, it definitely delivers.
Nima played Time Master on PC with a Steam code provided by the publisher.