Multiplicity: A Review of No Time to Explain

“I am you from the future, there’s no time to explain. Follow m-OH CHRIST!”

With these simple words, No Time to Explain sends you on a journey through time and space in pursuit of…something. It’s never really made clear what the goal is. Wait, that dinosaur has a rocket launcher. Shit, blow it up! GO GO GO! Is that a piece of cake? I should eat it. LAVA, FUCK!

That pretty much sums the game up.

What started life as a simplistic little flash game on Newgrounds has evolved into a “comedy platformer” not unlike Super Meat Boy. Created by tinyBuildGames, this full retail release takes the small scope of the free original and adds a variety of new mechanics and characters that you can use to navigate the game’s multiple worlds. You’ll do a lot of strange things in this game, such as shoot a dinosaur while riding a guy wearing a jetpack, get in a fist fight with yourself while you watch, and clone yourself…unsuccessfully.

Trust me, it all works in context.

When No Time to Explain is going for broke with its own off-the-wall sense of humor (referencing internet memes and poking fun at big video game companies) it’s at its best. It’s been a long time since a video game has gotten a belly laugh out of me, but No Time to Explain’s ‘video games = art’ level, which is a send-up of The Unfinished Swan, rendered me nearly inconsolable with laughter. As shows like Black Adder and Monty Python’s Flying Circus have shown us, when all pretense of reality goes out the window, the real work of comedy can begin. On this level, No Time to Explain works perfectly.

Unfortunately it’s when you’re not laughing that the problems come into focus. Your primary mode of transportation is the laser jetpack cannon…thing your future self drops at the beginning of the game. By firing it at the ground, you can propel yourself upwards or forwards on a beam of blazing hot energy, allowing you to fly across chasms or maneuver through tiny spike filled passages (you know, like you do). It’s hardly graceful and you’re more than likely to go flying off in a random direction when you fire it.

It’s not until you have to make exact jumps and perfect landings on tiny platforms that your jetpack’s lack of precision becomes a serious problem. Sometimes it felt like I was just hitting the buttons and hoping for the best, slamming my head into a wall over and over again waiting for that perfect burst of hot plasma. Even the game’s incredibly forgiving respawn mechanic, which places you on the last solid surface you had touched, can’t numb the pain of simply being unable to make the laser do what you want it to do.

Once you ditch the laser cannon for one of the game’s myriad of other characters, things get markedly better. There’s a shotgun that sends you flying, a psychic mind power that draws you towards where you click, and a mutant goo slingshot. At one point you even pull a Fat Princess and roll around while gorged with delicious cake. Given how solid these alternate mechanics feel, it makes every return to the laser cannon (which you use most of the time) that much more difficult to bear.

Then there’s the issue of length. Despite endless frustrations on some end-game levels, my full clear clocked in at around 2 hours and 45 minutes. There is a veritable haberdashery of hilarious hats to collect, some as difficult to grab as the most nefarious bandages in Super Meat Boy, but there isn’t much to do beyond that. There may be some secret levels I missed, but having earned the ‘you beat the game’ achievement, I can only assume I’m not missing that much.

No Time to Explain is a fun, if occasionally irritating, title from a new developer. Imprecise controls and a sinfully short length prevent it from being an easy recommendation (especially at $10), but its sharp sense of humor and creative setting suggest that the team at tinyBuildGames is worth paying attention to.

Pixels or Death rates No Time to Explain: 3 out of 5.

No Time to Explain is available now on Steam. It was released on January 25th, when a man in a red jumpsuit appeared at my door, but there’s no time to explain. Hey, is that a giant crab?

  • some guy

    Good review overall but less spoilers please.