We’ve all had times in our lives where we look back and wish things could’ve been different. No matter how small or how big those mistakes were, the power of hindsight is a wonderful thing. What happens, though, when one accident changes the course of a life. Time Loader is a wonderful physics-based puzzler, but it also has a ton of heart. After slipping on a toy car in his treehouse, Adam is left unable to use his legs. As he grows up, he dedicates his life to travelling back in time to stop it from happening. He creates a time machine from a microwave, and builds a robot to head back to 1995 in an effort to get rid of the toy that left him in a wheelchair.
Controlling the robot and taking it through various rooms in Adam’s old suburban home poses many challenges. Climbing over ovens and toasters, swinging from light bulbs, jumping off shelving and finding a way to get across a sink full of water are just a small selection of these puzzles. The robot has a grappler attached to it, and this can be used to grip objects. You can jump and grab something to swing across a gap. It can also be used to throw items, such as a weight you throw into a scale that lowers it down for you to swing on. New abilities and tools become available as you play, such as a screwdriver to open generators or disconnect wooden boards; using electricity to power up torches and treadmills, and a higher jump.
The puzzles are threaded throughout, happening organically within each new area. Trying to scare a cat out of Adam’s bedroom with a balloon and a toy dart. Working out how to get a piece of polystyrene to move across a flooded basement. Using a treadmill to keep a lampshade rolling so you can climb on top of it. There’re plenty of these small yet smart puzzles that each new alternate reality offers a different viewpoint on rooms previously explored.
Although it only takes place in one house, the nostalgia oozes through each room. The old VHS tapes, a PlayStation One and a Game Boy, and popular board games. I was twelve back then, so a lot of it feels familiar. On top of that, they are all so densely populated with household items that it gives you a different perspective being so small. Not quite ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ small, but the family cat becomes somewhat of an antagonist and you’re jumping over plant pots. The design is beautiful. The puzzles blend seamlessly with its design, and both work in tandem to provide such an enjoyable game.
In an effort to change the past, Adam hasn’t quite realised how much it can affect things. While you do manage to get rid of the toy car, there’re still threats out there that’ll make sure his accident still occurs. When you do manage to ‘save’ Adam, the results end up being far worse. It’s tragic, and Time Loader continues to push an emotional narrative. Flazm are delicate with these story beats, and it is far more affecting than I thought it would be.
While the robot doesn’t talk, it still conveys a personality. His little LED panel shows different emotions through smiles and frowns, and the harsh reality of changing the past seem to weigh on his little robotic soul. Finding letters and newspaper clippings with information about what’s happened help to flesh out the story and build up the anxiety and need to find out what has happened. The music is haunting at times. The entire score is wonderful, and complements these sad moments with an atmospheric and ambient sorrow.
Time Loader is a great physics-based puzzler with some fantastic visuals and a hell of a lot of heart. It’ll make you cry, reminisce, and question those times you’d wish you could change yourself. While the puzzles are never overly challenging, the amount of them and the medium difficulty provide a nice pace to proceedings. It’s a wonderfully designed game, with an attention to detail and a clever story that continues to stir the soul.
A powerful story
Excellent physics-based puzzles
Puzzles aren't overly challenging
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