The Time Tribe is a strange project. An adventure game that has the promise of an interesting story, the mechanics of any adventure classic, and some strangely uneasy monetary sinkholes. I came away from The Time Tribe feeling a bit odd about the whole game. The quirky characters and the charming written dialogue are entertaining but the simple puzzles and annoying voice work create this strange push and pull that stuck with me the entire way through.
The Time Tribe starts with the arrival of four children to a giant mansion they know nothing about. The children question their surroundings and their reason for being there but never get a clear answer from any of the adults who seem to live or work in the mansion. All of the scenes in the game take place with static pictures of characters that look decent but do little to spark the imagination. Levels in the game look mediocre and at times it’s hard to tell what’s an object and what’s just background material. With static pictures there is room for imagination and artistic freedom and while that looks to be coming in later episodes the first episode does little to impress on the graphic front.
The Time Tribe is an old-school adventure game through and through with all of the typical “click everything until you find stuff” moments you’ve come to expect. Many of the puzzles revolve around finding a certain object or person with very little variation between puzzles. At times you’ll find “locked” puzzle items that require you to beat mini games to move on or unlock the item. These games consist of simple mechanics such as sliding around blocks to get the different colored one out of the whole or shooting blocks at a falling stack to match three of a kind and clear the board. None of these mini-games were terribly creative nor were they interesting to play.
Where The Time Tribe tries to differ is in its character specific abilities. Each of the four playable children have abilities unique to themselves. One of the boys can learn the history of any object while the other can perceive things extremely well. The two girls in the story have the ability to see how a person is feeling or locate anyone in the mansion respectively. Unfortunately, for this particular episode, the powers really didn’t have much use aside from using the boy’s perception ability to figure out what I was missing. This basically acted as a very blatant “click here” type of hint.
Each of these abilities, as well as the decision to accept quests, costs the characters some of their chronos. Chronos is essentially an energy bar that is shared between the four main characters and drains during each playthrough. I say playthrough because each time the chronos meter runs out you have to stop playing or pay a small fee to get more chronos to continue on. This is one of the biggest problems I had with The Time Tribe, the game is by and large a free experience but there are a ton of buyable options. I don’t mind buying in-game items to further along a story or experience bar but when my game time is limited because of a mechanic, and it’s not a mobile game, I feel a little weird about it.
I don’t mind this mechanic with, say, an iPhone game because I don’t spend a ton of time with those games. Or rather, I don’t spend all that time in one large chunk. The Time Tribe is a PC title and a story driven adventure game as well so when you limit my time in a single playthrough I feel a bit strange about how to perceive that. I guess since it’s an adventure game they can get away with it but imagine being limited to your time in a GTA or Halo game because you used up your energy meter. It’s a mobile mechanic that doesn’t need to make it into PC or console games.
Weird mechanics aside where The Time Tribe actually had me hooked was the story and dialogue. The dialogue itself is well written and the kids read as snarky little tots who are confused about their current whereabouts, sadly I can’t say the same for the voice work. While the game reads well it sounds pretty rough. Voices are nasally and hard to listen to as each child sounds either high pitched or overly arrogant for what I assume is a pre-teen child. The voice work in an adventure game usually does a lot for me when it comes to enjoyment so to be missing the mark on that feature really is a shame. The actual story behind The Time Tribe is slow to start but by the time I got to the end of the first episode I actually wanted to see what was next.
This is that weird push and pull I mentioned earlier. I truly want to see what happens next in the story but the puzzles, voices and energy meter are doing a lot to make me not want to re-enter the world. I don’t mind playing through the basic puzzles if it means getting to the fun bits of story, of which the game has certainly set a bar on, but having to play only a bit each day is a tough pill to swallow. It’s like owning Bioshock: Infinite and being told you can only play an hour or so per day and if you want to play more you’ll need to pay up. I understand that The Time Tribe is free but that doesn’t mean the game-time needs to be hurt by such a decision. Overall there is a lot of promise in this title, I just wish the mechanics could match up to the story itself.