Your Sinclair1st October 1990
Published in Your Sinclair #58
Looks like it's going to take me absolutely ages to explain what The Time Machine is all about (seeing as it's so stonkingly complicated), so I'm afraid there just won't be any room for one of my usual witty introductions. Quel shame, eh, readers?
Come to think of it, I couldn't really think of one anyway, but let's not waste any more time wibbling on aimlessly - I'll get straight into explaining mode instead. Right, the whole shebang's a bit of a Back To The Future affair really, with you (stepping into the shoes of one Professor Potts) stuck in the past (after accidentally falling into some spooky sort of time warp thingy) and attempting to get (ahem) back to the future. Unfortunately, you've left your time machine at home (it's been blown up actually, in the explosion that created the time warp) so you have to effectively 'create' time so that everything that should happen does happen and the present, as you knew it, will eventually exist. You'll then be able to get back and stop the terrorists from bombing your time machine in the first place. (Or something like that anyway.)
Okay, so there are five time zones (the Prehistoric Age, the Ice Age, the Stone Age, the Iron Age and the Present, ie now) to work your way through, with you starting in the Prehistoric zone and then having to create all the others as you go along. Understand? No, didn't think so. Look, I'll explain again. You start in the Prehistoric age, right? Your job is to somehow help this time zone to become the Ice Age, otherwise the present day will never exist. But how? Well, an Ice Age needs to be cold, dunnit (hence all that ice and snow and stuff)? So if you can somehow work out how to cool down the Prehistoric Age then you've got yourself the Ice Age. You'll then have two zones (ie the Prehistoric Age and the Ice Age), which you can jump between at will. Work out how to warm up the Ice Age and, lo and behold, you'll get a third zone - the Stone Age, to be exact. And so it goes on (and on).
However (and this is where it may start to get confusing) you have to keep popping back to check on all the zones you've already created, otherwise you might find yourself back at the beginning again. How so? Well, for instance, if the cooled Prehistoric zone starts warming up, then the Ice Age will never come about, and all subsequent zones will cease to exist. And what a pickle you'd be in then, eh? You'd have to start all over again. (Except it won't be as bad because you can just do whatever it was you did to create the Ice Age in the first place again to bring everything back. Phew.)
Right then. Perhaps I should mention what the game looks like. Well, it's a sort of arcade adventure thing with a five flip-screens-long playing area. The same five locations appear in each time zone, though they do look a bit different each time of course (due to the passage of time etc). A grid thing at the top of the screen shows which zones you've created, and a red rectangle indicates if there's something unsafe or changing on that particular screen to give you a bit of 'help'. To complete each zone you have to manipulate evolution so that everything happens the way it should. I won't tell you exactly what you have to do, but it basically involves walking around the screens picking up objects and using them where appropriate. Need some wood, for instance? Then why not plant an apple in the Stone Age - it'll have grown into a tree by later on in the game.
Throughout the levels there are other characters who you can interact with. For example, in the Ice Age there's this big yeti bloke who'll keep on hitting you (thus draining your energy). But then again, who can blame the poor chap - you're trying to destroy his home! Perhaps a prezzy would make him a bit happier (and keep him out of your hair?). There are also these little furry little teddy-bear mammals who you've got to look after to ensure that they don't become extinct - otherwise humans will never evolve from them and you'll be right in 'it'.
Right, I've almost finished (phew). Better just quickly mention your four re-usable travel pods which you can drop wherever you want, and then teleport to - v useful. Oh, and I might even mention your gun (which you can stun things with) if there's room. And, erm, blimey. This is getting worryingly confusing. I hope you can understand what I've been dribbling on about (unlikely), but in case you haven't I'll sum it up in a couple of words. Erm, it's good. In fact, it might even be very good, and it's certainly like nothing else you've seen before. It could quite easily have been a massive flop, but I don't think it will be because it's been so well thought out. In fact, I think it can have a Megagame if it behaves itself.
A completely different yet completely brilliant number. Hurrah!