Time Loader is a 2D platformer starring a little robot that tries to change the past by meddling with some time travel shenanigans. At first, it seems just a bit somber, with a sad soundtrack and some cutscenes that present the core story which is about saving a kid from dying. It really gets sadder as it goes, diving into darker themes and involving a house fire that burns everything to a crisp. It is strange to see such a narrative woven into a game of this type, but it is also interesting and gives meaning to your actions in the gameplay moments.
Sadly, the presentation fails to maintain the intended spirit of the story, with some of the dialogue coming off too chipper to be fitting. All in all, though, it is a welcome approach, brought down a bit by the very simple cutscenes that don’t convey the appropriate feeling in full. Additionally, the visual design of the main character, the robot, is bold in its simplicity. It’s not a “mascot” protagonist, it doesn’t have cute features -or any features to be honest. It just looks like a little machine, a metal tool created to assist in everyday tasks around the house. Because of its design, the robot isn’t allowed to showcase emotions or any kind of personality, and therefore can’t create a bond with the player. However, Time Loader is more about the overarching story and less about its main character.
The gameplay is based on physics, as the little robot you control has to take into account the textures it stands on as it moves, the angle, its stance, and really everything that has to do with gravity and movement. The physics are well-implemented in general, with some aspects lacking polish that can lead to frustration. For instance, if the robot is standing on a surface that has gaps on it, it is not entirely clear how it’ll behave when it attempts to jump.
Another issue that arises has to do with perspective; it is not always apparent if a platform is reachable or if it’s a part of the background. Apart from moving and jumping, you can grab things using the robot’s built-in pincers, but this mechanic needed a lot more work to be satisfying. As it stands, it is very clunky and leads to annoying parts where you can’t grab something even though you should be able to. Going further, you will unlock some more features, some additional skills for your robot, and their acquisition is well-paced so that you’re never bored with your available skill-set. Annoyances aside, Time Loader presents some excellent platforming puzzles that are well-designed and interesting, albeit very easy to solve. If you enjoy this type of games, you will surely have fun for the 2-3 hours it takes to finish this one.
Visually, this game is a little treat. You will explore a house that is detailed enough to seem lived-in, and every different part of it is designed fittingly to simulate the various rooms and environments. The basement is moody, dark and a bit scary, the kitchen is full of everyday items that are used as platforms or barriers, the garage seems huge compared to the small robot you’re controlling and, generally speaking, this is a pretty and visually effective game. The music is eerie, melancholic and can get somewhat tiring after a while, but it fits the theme of the story and creates an appropriate atmosphere. The sound effects are very nice, simulating distinct textures as you roll on them and bringing to life the home you’re exploring through some realistic everyday noises.
The biggest problem, that impacts the experience a lot, is the frequent occurrence of bugs and glitches that hamper your progress, making you restart from a checkpoint and replay the same parts two or three times. Some items get stuck in the environment and cannot be used as needed, while others trigger the next scene when they shouldn’t and lead to never-ending glitches that force you to restart. If some of those hiccups get ironed out, Time Loader could really shine and offer a unique platforming experience that is fun as it is engaging.
In the final parts of the story, we see some ideas that are overly ambitious and don’t manage to hit as hard as the developers intended them to. Still, it’s better as it is, because the story gives you a sense of purpose and it is interesting enough to keep your attention until the credits roll. It’s easy to recommend this little game to anyone that’s interested in puzzle platformers with a focus on physics, but it’s a little disappointing that Time Loader’s unique approach is brought down by technical problems.