Time travel, it's a wonderful idea. The ultimate freedom of movement - the ability to visit whichever particular time zone takes your fancy. To whisk yourself away to the Jurassic era and watch gigantic, snarling reptiles playing 'Tag'. To plunge headfirst into an authentic Roman orgy, rolling about amid oily tufts of hair, vast slicks of stale wine, and the odd gladiator's helmet. To pirouette frantically backward to the eve of the previous week's lottery draw, safe in the knowledge that your 'lucky numbers' are set to make you one of the nation's richest, small-minded, buck-loving low-lifes.
Or, in the case of Time Commando, to ricochet maniacally through a dizzying carnival of generations, getting into fight after fight. You play the part of an impressively chesty hero, provisionally named 'Stan' (see panel), who's hurtling forwards through time. Don't ask me why: it's something to do with a sort of'Time Tunnel' contraption that he's gone and fallen in or something. Anyhow, for whatever reason, Stan is forced to complete a perilous journey through the history of mankind, from the prehistoric age up to the present day (and possibly beyond), starting out with only his fists and his steel-jawed determination for company. And if there's a single lesson that Stan will learn from all of this, it's that no matter which particular age you visit, you're inevitably going to run into someone who's looking for a scrap.
The game itself, while still quite a long way from completion, is already looking very smart indeed. Anyone who's played Adeline's excellent Little Big Adventure will instantly recognise the style of some of the charters and animation, although here both larger and more detailed. FilrthermoreT you're not limited to a isometric view - in Time viewpoint is continuity shifting: zooming in and out, franfing the action from the most dramatic ingle... and not in a jump-cut, Alone In The Dark fashion, but in a silky smooth big-budget movie kind of way. Yet despite ill these wonderful visual animation remains delightfully fluid throughout. This has been achieved through a genuinely original marriage of prerendered video animation (spooled from the cd), and polygon-tastic stuff done on the fly by your humble pc. The fmv supplies the terrain, your processor delivers the characters that strut through it.
Hold on, that doesn't sound very original
Pish-posh. Listen, will you? You may be haunted by memories of other fmv/real-time-sprite get-togethers (such as the execrable Novastorm et al), but Time Commando really is different. The background may well be pre-rendered, but by 'eck you'll know it's really there. You can stand on ledges, your path becomes blocked by fallen trees, enemies leap out from behind things (and then come and attack you, of course)... it all behaves as it should. Don't worry about it. All you have to know is this: it looks incredible -bloody incredible - for reasons that are an absolute bastard to describe.
The gameplay is an absolute bastard to describe too: it mixes elements of not only the aforementioned LBA and AITD, but also Prince Of Persia (or any other platform game you care to mention) and... erm... Final Fight. Yes, that's right: Time Commando is a three-dimensional scrolling platform beat 'em up arcade adventure game - a veritable genre soup, in fact. Stan can walk, jump, skip from side to side, punch, kick, and use whatever weapons he chances upon (sounds rather like an excerpt from my cv) in order to reach the end of each level.
Since our mate Stan comes under attack every couple of seconds, this is somewhat handy. And as if the endless, maniacal assaults from complete strangers aren't quite enough to make Stan's quest seem particularly daring, there's always the good ol' traditional platform game 'obstacles of peril' to fall back on - things that swing from side to side, things that fall on you, things you have to jump over, etc, etc. There's enough going on here to keep any arcade game fan happy. Or indeed, just about anyone else.
Stan Dabby Dozy
As I mervtiOped earlier, Time Command still quite a way completion, but it's already,obvious that this is look out for. We were only able to play one working level (itself still in the process of being tweaked): the opening Prehistoric vaunt. And lo, there was much peril. Grizzly cavemen (and women) beating Stan with their furry fists. A wonderfully designed and animated sabretoothed tiger springing out of a cave and going gnash-crazy. Rocks for throwing at people, clubs for bludgeoning... it's all here. And when you bear in mind that this is just level one, and that each level has a distinctly different theme (depending on the! time zone)ryou can see that it's unlikely to become tedious very quickly. If it all.
It's rapidly becoming niche to point out that the French have got an impressive track record when it comes to producing original, quality pc games. But on this eyidence, it's going to be a cliche you'll near even more in the future. Time Commando is due out in early summer. Try not to drool.
Time commando drifted into the office without a manual. Nothing unusual. It happens all the time. In the case of complex choppier sims or whatever, a telephone call deals with the problem and sheets of A4 come pouring through the fax. With Time Commando, however, I didn't feel I needed a manual: after all, the keys are redefmable, so no problem. The only trouble (and it's a small one) is that I'm on level 20 and I still don't know what I'm 'doing'. I know what to do, you understand, but not why. Still, all is not lost, because it means we can play a game... a game which I call 'guess what that rendered intro was all about'. Wanna play? (It's multiple choice.)
Time Commando rendered intro: scene 1
There are loads of your usual panning, rotating camera work, and we're brought inside a big futuristic looking room. There's a giant upright spindly thing in the centre and it's acting like a hub for a bunch of horizontal 'spokes'. On the end of each spoke is a chair, in which sits a person at a computer type affair. They're all facing the 'hub'.
(a) It's obviously some sort of futuristic network computer game set-up. (b) It's probably a fairground ride of some description: a 21st century merry-go-round if you like. (c) It's simply an office. No big deal. I reckon that in the future all offices will look like that.
Time Commando rendered intro: scene 2
There's a tasty chick leaning against the chair of a handsome character (her tongue's virtually in his ear). We get a couple of camera angles and a close-up. The camera pulls back to a profile of the dodgy-looking bloke in the chair on the next spoke. He glances shiftily from side to side then furtively slips a floppy disk thing into a drive on his console.
(a) He's cheating. His disk is full of 'infinite ammo' codes and whatnot. Either that or he's a sore loser who's just lost, in which case his disk has some kind of futuristic virus on it. (b) He's the fairground boss - a futuristic gypsy. He's checking that all the people have paid for the ride. His floppy disk probably just sets the roundabout in motion. (c) Well, either he's the office manager and he's downloading the day's workload, or he's one of the staff and he's making an illegal copy of a program from the main server.
Time Commando rendered Intro: scene 3
There's a weird slo-mo explosion, emanating from the hub. It's like a spherical bright light. It grows in size until it shrouds all the spokes, the chairs, and everything. The tasty chick backs off in alarm.
(a) I told you! It's a virus! It's exploded everything. (b) The merry-go-round has gone wrong, and I bet the fairground owner isn't insured. (c) Hmmm. Is it like what happens during lunch breaks in the future? No? Er, I'm a bit buggered actually, aren't I?
Time Commando rendered Intro: scene 4
A bloke appears from another room and studies the glowing anomaly. The camera swooshes around in typical rendered-intro style. The bloke then reaches into the blindingly bright orb and is sucked inside. This is the cue for the game to start.
Final conclusions, please
(a) Well, as I said, it's just this gigantic futuristic virus which is like a black hole (except it's white). Er, and then something else happens. It's probably got something to do with time, seeing as the game's called Time Commando. (b) He's a fairground mechanic. (c) Well, if it's not an office then what is it? Frankly, I don't have a clue.
Mostly (a)s: Nice one. You're roughly where I was when I started the game. Mostly (B)s: Well, at least you stuck with your theory - even if it was crap. Mostly (c)s: Pathetic. You deserve to be shot in the eye.
So where are we now?
Well, we've played 'guess what that rendered intro was all about'. If I can now add that Time Commando's levels are set firstly in Stone Age times, then Roman times, then the Middle Ages of various countries, then Wild West America (which is as far as I've got), I think I can safely say that we can see a pattern emerging. Yup, we're travelling back to the future... inside some kind of computer enhanced 'cyber disaster'. Or virus. Or scary magic thingummy.
But what's the game actually like?
Graphically it's like Cyberia or something of that ilk - you've got your light-source shaded rotatey geezer who can walk, punch, kick, jump, search and so on, and you guide him around numerous rendered landscapes, killing everything you see. Scattered liberally about are small computer chip icons to collect, while at the top of the screen there's a bar which acts like a timer, and is supposed to represent (I think) the ever-growing scary virus doofer from the intro. If you fail to complete a level quickly enough, this bar will become full and it's game over - unless you manage to locate an 'interface terminal' into which you download the icons you've found. Oh, and sometimes you'll hear a celestial choir 'aah' sound, which is telling you that somewhere in your immediate vicinity is a hidden item: it might be an extra life, more health, concealed chips, a weapon...
Yes, a weapon. And you get to use more weapons in Time Commando than in any other game I've ever seen, incidentally, because each time era (of which there are heaps) carries its own unique selection. In caveman times it's rocks, different sized clubs, wooden spears and the like; in Middle Age Japan it's nunchukas and all that ninja kit; in cowboy times there's a complete selection of guns - Colt, shotgun, Winchester, etcetera. You get the idea. (And anyway, I don't want to spoil things by giving you a complete list.)
So what else do you do?
Well, apart from picking up the chips and finding the odd hidden room, you don't actually do anything other than, er, kill things. This isn't a game for puzzle freaks by any stretch of the imagination. I'll tell you what I was thinking after I'd got through a few levels, that it's sort of like playing a constantly moving and changing Toshinden, but with a sort of vague nod towards Prince Of Persia. For my money, though, this nod isn't nearly pronounced enough (in fact it's more of a nervous twitch). On the Toshinden side Time Commando can't be faulted, because the graphics - both the rendered stuff and the 3D spritey doofers - are absolutely corking, and the compulsion to continue is derived not only from the enjoyment of the myriad scraps, but also to see what ingenious attention to detail the backdrops of the next level will contain. The graphics people should be knighted.
On the Prince Of Persia side however... Well, leaping over crevasses and hanging onto ledges has never been a good idea in 3D games with continually changing viewpoints and scaling, mainly because you can never get to grips with the pixel perfect placement necessary. (Luckily, Time Commando's designers realised this and have kept such moments down to a bare minimum). What this ultimately means, though, is that the only stuff to cross over from Prince Of Persia isn't the stuff which made that particular game a classic. Oh well.
So what's the verdict?
If you want a really classy looking beat 'em up with ever changing scenery, four squillion weapons, frenetic action pieces, and a storyline to hold everything together, then you'll love Time Commando to bits. But if the designers had leaned more heavily on the Prince Of Persia elements and had connected the 3D stages together with some good old-fashioned viewed from the side mazey, leapy type shenanigans, then Time Commando would have a score somewhere in the nineties.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode