Enter the Chronosphere mixes XCOM and Superhot with addictive results | Hands-on preview

by on May 13, 2024

Every now and then a game comes along that feels utterly unique, even if it doesn’t sound all that dazzling on paper. Take Enter the Chronosphere, a turn-based tactical shooter where time only moves when you do. The description conjures memories of XCOM and, weirdly, Superhot, which sounds like the kind of crossover that will die on its arse in early access. Or at least that’s what I thought until I played it.

The “combat demo” for Enter the Chronosphere is just superb, allowing you to pick from two of the playable characters before throwing you straight into the action. The fact that it’s turn-based doesn’t really seem to factor, it’s so fast-paced. A run consists of ploughing through randomised maps and enemies to reach the boss, with weapon and item pickups also randomised.

Enter the Chronosphere

It’s isometric and grid-based, and time stands still as long as you do. And this isn’t like Superhot where bullets still crawl like wasps through treacle; the world goes still until you either move, shoot, reload, or use an ability. As enemies are also moving and shooting, you’ll need to anticipate things like bullet trajectory and blast radius, which can create a kind of stop-motion bullet hell that has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

I played as freedom fighter Marcia, whose combat roll keeps her out of trouble. Turns take place over a course of you moving, shooting, or using an ability, so there’s no waiting for actions to complete or for the enemy to move. You fire, dodge, activate an ability like the jetpack to boost you out of trouble, and repeat. Levels are set up with lots of corridors and corners, and a reason to explore everywhere for new weapons and items.

I went through a small gamut of guns, from the shotgun that fires more like a Gatling gun to a microwave beam emitter that fires a massive beam of heat with crazy range. There are bouncing bombs and mines, and Marcia’s quickdraw ability can catch enemies by surprise as they round corners.

Enter the Chronosphere

Levels are colourful and almost twee, which makes the spurt of blood and guts when an enemy dies feel slightly disturbing. Especially as you’re killing little pink penguins and cute mole men with drills on their arms. A lot of Enter the Chronosphere feels very random, with weird enemies, bizarre guns, and bright worlds.

I’m not entirely sure how the meta game will work in the full release, but in the demo death ends a run and you start from scratch. There are healing items and buffs to find, and anything that extends the run and gets you to that next level is worth using.

Aesthetically, Enter the Chronosphere is bright, cheerful, and charming, with little correlation between one level and the next. It stops it from becoming visually repetitive, while the random enemies keep you on your toes. I played on controller, which felt very good, with satisfying feedback and responsive controls.

Enter the Chronosphere

The fact that you can literally take a breath between actions to assess the situation is great, but it’s surprising how easy it is to still get overwhelmed by enemy fire from time to time if you put yourself in a bad position. Everything about this demo is impressive, from the looks to the way gameplay feels, and the fast-paced, short levels are great one-more-go fodder that is sure to have you hooked in minutes.

Until we see more of Enter the Chronosphere besides just the combat it’s unknown whether there’s a hub area or what kind of buffs or unlocks will carry over, but just from the combat alone I’m itching to get my hands on this addictive, moreish indie.

Enter the Chronosphere is coming to PC, but has no release date yet.