(Typical joke involving lack of time to explain things here)
I loooooooves me some weird Indie goodness. Perhaps almost to a fault, but No Time To Explain (NTTE) from tinyBuild satisfies the weirdness in independent gaming that I've come to love and enjoy. Unfortunately, even if the game has a lot of chuckles and amusement up its sleeve, you won't find yourself being sucked back into this wacky tale that often unless you're a completionist or if you have an inner speed demon within you.
To talk about NTTE's story would be to take all of the magic away, but glazing over the trailers should tell you all you need to know. That said, if you do buy NTTE, you should try going into it knowing as little as possible. That way, the humor and wit is unspoiled and fresh to you, even after your first play-through it'll all be old news. Not to say you'll drop ten bucks, buzz through the game and never touch it again, but unless you're like I said above, a completionist or a someone who enjoys improving their times in games, you'll probably seldom come back to it just for another fun, short romp. Because the game is short. Oh lordy, is it ever short. Since I played the beta versions of the game during their development, my play-through this time around clocked in at about or just under an hour, and that's without trying to go for each and every collectible hat in the game. Your mileage may vary, but expect an hour to an hour and a half on your first time playing, and tack on another hour or so trying to complete everything.
NTTE is a platformer that has you whizzing around the screen level by level using a laser cannon that, once you're in the air and angle it properly, you can propel yourself in any direction as long as you're best buds with physics and gravity. It's a bit jarring for the first few minutes, but once you start hopping around and begin firing your laser in experimentation, you'll be pulling off daring maneuvers in no time. This is in thanks to the opening few levels which don't teach you very much by means of tutorial or hand holding, but instead expects you to look at your obstacle and assault it until you persevere. Calling it trial and error wouldn't be incorrect, but considering how reliant the game is on your aim and using the physics of launching yourself with the laser cannon, you can expect to fling yourself into pits, spikes and off the map plenty of times before you get a good grasp of things. Which is good, as besides the fact there are achievement tie-ins, death has no penalty besides a quick warping back to the last piece of solid ground you were on. There are a couple of occasions were death means a complete restart, but we'll get to that momentarily.
As you progress level by level, the difficulty naturally ramps up, demanding you gain more skill with your cannon fast. Again, the lack of death penalty keeps frustration low, but Super Meat Boy syndrome does kick in at some point where you keep throwing yourself at a wall in hopes of victory. That said, when you do overcome a difficult level or nail a challenging glide, you can't help but grin in satisfaction. Levels eventually go from simple 'blast over this chasm and win' to 'blast over this chasm while on fire, burn this wall and win' to pseudo-shoot em' up segments. There are even levels where you lose your cannon entirely or gain a new weapon, but that's something I won't spoil in detail because it's just too rad. As mentioned there are boss fights, but as awesome and explosive as they are, I can't help but feel that a lot of potential was wasted here. Yes, wailing on a giant mecha-crab is cool, but dying here is pointless, while a later boss has you restart the entire damn fight when you screw up once. Boss designs are interesting and shoop da whooping them with a huge frickin' laser is satisfying, but with some fights punishing you and some fights not, it makes you wonder why a more punishing direction wasn't taken to penalize you all the time. The good news is that boss fights go by pretty quick once you know the trick to them, so my whining doesn't hold much ground there. Each new series of levels has you taking on a new gimmick or a new method of locomotion, so the slightly sour boss fight aftertaste is quickly washed away by something new to challenge you, complete with new tracks from a damn solid soundtrack, once that I happily bought during NTTE's original development process.
So we got a pretty short game with creative level design, a solid challenge (though some of the later, 'twitchy' levels can drive you up the wall, though thankfully there's only a small handful of them), appealing visuals that don't distract you from bouncing around the level, boss fights leaving something to be desired, and a catchy soundtrack that keeps you in the game and frustration at bay. With the addition of Steam achievements, collectible hats and a game that is begging for speed runners to take on, the only other reason to come back to NTTE is the level creator and the user made levels. User made levels are practically free DLC, and you take on these levels in rapid succession, one right after the other. At the time of writing, I encountered a problem, however. After clearing five or so levels, I went back to the level select screen to take on a past level in a previous season. When I came back to the user levels, I had to start from the very beginning of the series again. Whether or not this is a bug, I don't know, so I won't knock the game for keeping me from machine gunning through the user content.
Long story short, I feel NTTE is worth $10 if you like improving your skill in a game, collecting things, or just enjoy watching the big bang boom crashes of lasers and explosions without Michael Bay's horrible directing. I can't give it a bright, grand recommendation due to its incredibly short length, but if you have $9.99 to burn on Steam and you want something Indie with good humor and solid design, No Time To Explain is a fine way to spend those dollars.