There’s No Time To Explain why this 2D platformer/puzzle/shooter hybrid is so awesome – but I’ll try
No Time To Explain
No Time To Explain is very apt in its choice of name. You’re immediately given a laser gun and several levels to traverse as part of the title sequence, moments after a future you breaks through your house to warn you about… something, but is interrupted mid-sentence as he gets carried off by an immense crab claw.
From there, it’s all lasers, football, gravity wells, top hat-wearing dinosaurs, setting yourself on fire, and battling a giant sharktopus as you solve puzzles and traverse platforms, trying to figure out what’s going on. It’s nonsensical and over-the-top, but it’s also finely-tuned and the blend of platformer, puzzle, and shooter genres combines in a satisfying way.
For example, while the basic laser you start with is awesome in its own right thanks to cool animation and sound effects, it’s not just a gun. Several pits are too large for you to outright jump across, so you need to use the blast to give yourself an added aerial boost.
There are plenty of other weapons throughout the game – one that seems to be a super shotgun, another that pulls you along – and objects in the environment will also change how you play; a wooden wall blocking your path can be set aflame by dousing yourself in fire first, and running up to it.
You can’t die or lose points, and respawns are nearly instantaneous. No Time To Explain is very forgiving in its difficulty, but that’s because the game is first and foremost about having some good old, silly fun. Despite the game’s name, I had a feeling there was quite a lot to explain, so I asked the team at tinyBuild to do just that.
Time to explain
If the name of this game sounds familiar, you may have already played a similar, free version on Newgrounds or ArcadeBomb. The original Flash version received high praise, which led to a Kickstarter campaign. That Kickstarter led to Steam Greenlight, and now Greenlight has led to a full experience, which you can purchase on Steam for $10 – or 25% off if you buy between now and February 1.
Tom Brien, co-founder of tinyBuild and creator of the original Flash version told the Report that shifting gears helped him re-focus on making the game fun. “The only gameplay in the first game, which I guess you can call a prototype, was there to keep people engaged and to basically be a carrot on a stick to pull people through what is more a comedy experience than anything,” he said. “That’s a great space to experiment with ideas like that.”
“Having jokes take over the game for five minutes is a fresh and fun experience. McPixel showed that this year, and Don’t Shit Your Pants is a noble achievement in the pantheon of game design history, but having that for a few hours is more just annoying. There’s no way I’m being that game that says the same unfunny voice sample over and over again,” Brien explained.
“The whole idea with the screaming guy on the right was that he doesn’t pause anything, he’s not intrusive, and he’s very quick. Same with the intro. Having to test the game a hundred times is a good way to spot when the jokes block the fun of just playing it, and I can confidently say that they don’t.”
I asked Brien if there were any jokes that he feels might have fallen flat. Humor is such an oddly specific thing, so what happens if someone doesn’t “get it?” He explained that one section of the game, which was inspired by discussions of video games as art, might have been executed more poorly than he would have liked. Brien explained that, as he dug through discussions, he would often see “me-too” style games – simple games, but with classical music or poetry.
“It’s like everyone wanted to be a part of this movement, but nobody had the right idea of what the hell the real goal was,” he said.“That, on its face, is hilarious. I wanted to make jokes about that, but I’m afraid now about whether or not this section of No Time just looks cynical or making fun of people for being ambitious. I hope not.”
Finding the game
No Time To Explain came from a background as a minutes-long Flash game, and that shows in the final product. It’s not the best-looking game on Steam – although the animations are fluid and the sharktopus tentacles in particular are cool to watch – and it’s not the most deep or complex. Despite these issues, it’s incredibly fun and a worthwhile game. I asked Brien how he knew when the game had hit the right balance.
“From the start of No Time, I wanted to make a game with one multi-use tool to play around with, like the portal gun from Portal, or the arm in Bionic Commando, then build a world around that, and put as many twists as possible on what that can do. The beam cannon in No Time is this: it’s a gun that can break ground and attack enemies, glide around the sky, thrust through water and all sorts of other stuff.”
“Earlier on, we were just trying to make a good platformer, and I realised that Super Meat Boy had already kinda done everything on that path. Once we switched focus to the gun though, and everything you can possibly do with that, we found out where the game was.”
No Time To Explain is tinyBuild’s first project, and Brien gave the impression that he was excited for what comes next. If it’s anything like No Time, it’s worth getting excited for. I asked Brien what lessons he would take going forward, and what tinyBuild’s philosophy was on creating games. Would they all be funny? Would they all be platformers?
“I guess the shortest thing I can say about game design is that there’s always more to it. If you’ve got a prototype, keep looking at it. If you’re testing, test again, if you’re making a sequel with two new weapons and five new enemies, stop, because there’s more to it than that,” he said. “There isn’t a ceiling.”
No Time To Explain is available now on Steam. Buy it. Why? Well, you know.