Crystals of Time
It's not often that you enter a game with the words, "I am a thief."
The only other game I can think of that does that is Vault Cracker. It would explain why our main character is good at breaking in to things, at least!
The options are very basic, with separate sliders for music and sound, plus a windowed option. There are two modes of play -- Normal and Hard -- and this can't be changed once you start the game. I went with Hard mode, as I don't like sparklies. The tutorial is not optional, even in hard mode
On the main game page we have facts about the various characters in the game, but we can't scroll through at our own pace, and they don't leave the text up long enough to read in one pass! >_< The cutscenes, on the other hand, need to be clicked through, so you can read at your leisure.There is a problem with the profiles
, where every time you enter the game, it reverts you back to the first profile made. In other words, it doesn't come back to whomever played last, as most games do.
The are some localization and spelling errors that make it obvious that the developers are not native English speakers, and after a bit of research, I see that they're based out of Romania. These kinds of errors can really ruin a game for me in a hurry, but I wanted to give the game a chance. On the plus side, there were only two mislabeled items in the hidden object scenes: "sac" (instead of "sack") and "enveloppe".
Our JOURNAL tracks our objectives on the left-hand side, and the story/important information on the right.
We have a MAP in the form of an easily-accessible compass. Once we have visited a location, it becomes available as a jump-to location. It does NOT show you your current location, but if you mouse-over a location, a bubble will pop up with a picture and description of what the site is. ie. Back yard. But wait... it's not ALL locations that we can jump to, just the basics. For instance, we can jump to the front door of the house, but not to any of the specific locations inside
In all, there are four places we can jump to on our first map, and three on the second map.
The HOS are non-interactive (just lists) with the items disappearing from your list once you've found them. There is NO rapid-misclick penalty, even in hard mode (something I appreciate.) I amused myself by seeing how many items I could find before looking at the list
Just a note that the game can be a bit picky about where you click. The devs really should have put a small "aura" on their items for the "sloppy clickers." There is one scene where you cannot "find" the briefcase unless you click in *exactly* the right spot, but that was the only item I found that I had any frustration with. You will visit each HOS multiple times.
The mini-games are skippable, and if you need to reset the puzzle(s) or get instructions, there are buttons for those on the right-hand side of the screen... Not that there are very many of them. Oftentimes I was doing an action that I was sure would result in a mini-game, only to find that the game completely skipped over the part where we would have had to do one. *shrugs*
The HINT refills at different rates depending on which mode of play you've chosen, and using it during the adventure portion of the game will show you a picture of an active site. This discharges your hint.
Navigation is poorly done, in my opinion -- not very intuitive. Good thing we have our trusty map... except that we have to FIND the locations before we can use the jump-to option... Meh. It's really not so bad, but it does make things a little confusing!
Pop-up / zoom-in areas stay open after you've finished with them, and you'll have to back out... and you can go back to that zoom-in at any time, if you wish (makes you think that you must've missed something, though... )
Dealing with pop-ups (or zoom-ins, if you prefer) is a bit cumbersome, as well. Clicking on the background will not close the pop-ups -- you have to manually back out with the directional arrow.
Now here's something different about the game: We have a blue crystal (part of the story,) which we use as our hint button. Every now and then the crystal will turn purple. When it changes color, we can affect time itself, returning to the past. You can stay in the past for as long as you wish, but you will not be able to leave the location until you come back into present time.
Sometimes the devs have us skipping small actions that would have things make more sense. For instance,
when we use metal wire clippers on live wires without gloves on
or when we
do the old "there's a key in the other side of the keyhole" trick where we put something like some paper or a rug under the door, then poke the key through so that it will fall on that item... except that just putting something under the door works -- no need to poke it through
By the way, said key automatically enters the lock -- no need to turn the key.
Along the same vein, when we need to use an item multiple times on a scene, we have to take it out of our inventory each time, instead of it staying in our hands (so to speak) until we're finished with it.
There is a strong adventure element to the game, with a lot of exploring and finding items in the scenes (not just in HOS.) That's something I really like.
Things to watch for (almost like collectibles) during the adventure portion:
- Piano keys
- Pieces of paper
We have a lot of freedom of movement, making things a little less structured and linear, but not so much that we're saying to ourselves...
In other words, still intuitive enough that it's not overwhelming or confusing. Still, there isn't a lot of interaction via black-bar tips, so I can see how the game might be more difficult for those who haven't played a lot of these games.
The music is tone-setting, nice but not irritating, and there are no voice overs.
The graphics are very nice -- as the description says, more than 80 hand-painted scenes -- but except for the HOS, all of the graphics are static. No movement of fog, no changes in lighting, no wisps of making the leaves flutter... Things we're so very used to seeing in our games nowadays that it seems odd to be without them.
We start out with heavy adventure, then it's HO, HO, HO, I don't mean the Santa Claus kind.
Suddenly we're running around revisiting scenes all over the place, just to see if a HO scene has popped up! This happens at least twice, completely unbalancing the gameplay.
It's a shame that the devs couldn't have done a more broad beta... or maybe just with more thorough testers
There are so many things they devs could have done to make the game more user-friendly and polished. Besides my gripes above, I think the time-change element was vastly underused. I would have rather had fewer locations with more time warps, personally. As it is, you can only do the time change in two rooms.
Despite the clunky interface, I think that the gameplay is generally interesting... Except that the story is really generic and not gripping at all. To top it all off, the ending of the game was very
abrupt. Combine all the elements of this game -- the good and the bad -- and what you have is an OK game that could
have been really good. In the end I'd rate Crystals of Time