Version tested: DS
- Developer: EnjoyUp Games
- Publisher: Oxygen
Look at us, praising Portal for its brevity. Life's too short for games these days and when a great one comes along that we can polish off in a few short hours, hey, we'll readily celebrate its existence. Trimming off the excess is one solution for saving time, certainly. There is, however, a rather trickier alternative, and one we can apply here, and that's to get two games on the go at once. An impossible task for the human brain, you might well think, but, ahh, surely the direction things will be heading once you see Chronos Twin's neat party trick.
It's a platform game, yet its forte isn't in using the handheld's dual screen for extended vision or a redundant map. Instead you've been chronologically split in two, controlling the same character in different eras. The premise is that you exist simultaneously in the past and present, trying to stop a time-based catastrophe. While each character moves and jumps at the exact same point, each timeline varies in layout, and what you need to do in one affects how you get by in the other.
At a basic level, standing on a platform in the past, for instance, will cause you future self to occupy that position too, even when there's nothing there, and vice versa. Blocks, lasers and other obstacles also impede progress in either timeline, forcing you to navigate a path that spans both eras. Hence you'll be constantly flicking your eyes from one screen to the other, trying to watch what's going in both at the same time. Not as easy as it sounds.
Additionally, you also gain the ability to freeze any one timeline, allowing you to go off and solve puzzles that clear the way for your other self. The game clearly dictates these times, but it's a welcome respite from all that vigilance.
With the best intentions, Chronos Twin would be a relatively straightforward, average platformer were it to lack its gimmick. With it in place, however, it ups its game considerably. It's a dextrous challenge; the equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. Yet it's been purposely designed to work on that novelty, coming together as a coherent whole, with you hopefully becoming deft enough to avoid falling blocks in the past while concurrently hopping over energy balls in the present without a second thought.
Though having said that, with its deliberately confusing premise it's all too easy to overwhelm the multi-tasking part of your brain. When you factor shooting or avoiding enemies into the platforming equation, you'll often find yourselves in a fluster (although sound cues do help a bit). Unlike movement, each character's weapon acts independently of the other, and figuring out which screen to shoot on when the bullets start flying is a challenge in itself. Mess up and the irksome way the game freezes you in place for a second or so each time you receive a hit, or takes its time restarting the level, doesn't really help matters either.
Overall presentation is a little basic. Graphics are akin to a less polished version of the GBA Metroid games, the story is poorly translated from its Spanish roots ("A thing came out from nothing. He didn't know who was him."), and the less said about the odd blue man pouting on the box the better.
Still, it survives on the strengths of taking an innovative approach. It latches on to one of the DS's inherently unique capabilities and takes it as far as it can go. It can be a frustrating and arduous game at times. Death is frequent, and it doesn't readily do much to sustain its appeal when - or if - it clicks, but it's a neat idea worth checking out, especially at its budget price point.