Timelapse: Ancient Civilizations... The Link to Atlantis

Developer/Publisher:  GTE Entertainment
Year Released:  1996

Review by Rosemary Young (December, 1996)
timlaps.jpgEven though I'm a staunch believer in the time honoured adage (computer game time that is) that graphics don't make a game, I'm nevertheless compelled to begin this review of Timelapse by mentioning the graphics. They are gorgeous, perfectly evocative of the fascinating game world and, even better, they are accompanied by an excellent soundtrack, very satisfying gameplay and an intriguing and thought provoking quest.

Who are we?
Doctor Alex Nichols, eminent archaeologist, is a devotee of the school of thought postulating that alien intervention precipitated the flowering of the mysterious ancient cultures of our world. However, he has fallen from grace in the realms of academia for his talk of genetic engineering and his theory linking the Lost City of Atlantis with these civilisations. So when the chance of redemption presented itself in the form of a time portal on Easter Island allowing him to access the past to prove his theory, he couldn't resist. Of course, his decision to enter the portal was not without risk, and now he is entrapped somewhere in his wanderings.

Fortunately he sent a message to you before leaving. He begged you to join him on Easter Island, and somehow he managed to return his priceless journal back through the time tunnel for you to find on your arrival.

Hence you begin your journey on Easter Island and, equipped with Nichols' helpful diary, it's up to you to open the portal and follow in your colleague's footsteps. You will visit four ancient civilisations, the Egyptian, the Mayan, the Anasazi and, finally, the Lost City of Atlantis. The various worlds are beautifully re-created, they are a wonder to explore, which makes the number of 'travelling' screens where there is nothing for you to do fairly easy to digest. Each environment presents a range of reasonably complex problems to overcome before the next time portal can be located and you can progress further in the game. There seems to be no rigidity in the order in which you should visit the intermediary civilisations. I followed the progression in the diary although I could see no reason to do this except that it just 'felt' right.

The obstacles
The obstacles or problems you will face in Timelapse are primarily in keeping with the story, the few abstract type puzzles and games a la The 7th Guest/11th Hour are camouflaged well enough to mesh in with the game. Still, this is not a traditional adventure in that you don't collect lots of inventory items to manipulate. There is only one inventory slot hence most of the puzzles involve gathering information in order to manipulate or interpret various devices. For instance, a scroll might contain information or, maybe, a wall painting or even a sound, might be important in learning what buttons to press to manipulate a wall puzzle, or they might be the key to decoding a numbering system or whatever.

Your colleague's diary is your bible. Not only does it make interesting reading to flesh out the story, but it also contains some notations that are essential to problem solving, as well as some good pointers to help you out here and there. However, as it does contain hints, and as it is so detailed, I would advise that you explore each game environment first, before reading it, so that you can make your own discoveries and maybe even work out some of the answers for yourself without added help.

Generally the puzzles are of medium difficulty, or maybe a shade on the hard side, particularly for novice players. However, they are thoroughly absorbing, especially for any armchair Indiana Jones who dreams of exploring ancient monuments and discovering clues in glyphs and wall paintings.

Controlling the game
The character you assume in Timelapse is genderless so you are at liberty to play yourself. It is a mouse or keyboard controlled, first person perspective game, and there are plenty of easily accessible controls to adjust the sound, colour and turning speed. There are no game characters as such, so you won't meet any ancient locals going about their business, but activating various devices will initiate video sequences of the ancients/aliens telling you their tales. During these interludes, and also from reading your diary, there is lots to learn about the history of these ancient civilisations, and about their myths and legends, including some good lessons in the folly of greed and tyranny. You can even discover how the great pyramids of Egypt and Central America and the stone monoliths of Easter Island were erected.

Occasionally the voices are difficult to understand because they are always accompanied by music and sound effects and I would have appreciated a text option to alleviate this annoyance. As it is, Timelapse excludes people with hearing problems and if you are tone deaf there are a couple of music puzzles to frustrate you as well.

The game runs under Win 3.1 and Win 95 so there are limitless save game slots. It consists of four CDs and disk swapping is no problem at all as each gameworld environment occupies a single disk. The one problem here is that the opening sequence is not written to each CD. To start up the game you must always insert CD1 so you can access your saved games and move on to another disk if necessary. Perhaps this would not have been so bad, but the game courteously ejects your disk for you. For me at least, it was so anxious to spit out CD1 it didn't give itself time to finishing reading the disk. Hence I continually got a read error and had to return CD1 before I could remove it once more and insert another CD.

Thoroughly enjoyable
I found Timelapse to be a most enjoyable game. It was quite an anti-climax to finish it and return to the 'real' world. The story kept me interested, the puzzles kept me entertained and it provided quite a bit of food for thought. I was very pleased to get the news of Timelapse II, The Homeworld at the end of my adventure. I can only think of one major complaint ... why the need for a shooting sequence at the end? I thought this arcade type problem was out of character with the rest of the game. In my estimation it's just plain lazy ... reach for a gun to get rid of the bad guy ... it's all been done before. In such games as this surely there must be other, more inventive, ways to achieve the same end. Although I must point out that you don't actually kill the 'bad guy' in this instance.

Timelapse is highly recommended. The game is so captivating I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys this type of game where the collection of inventory items is not important, but where the emphasis is on exploration and manipulating and interpreting objects within the game environment. If you are an experienced player, however, look around first and try solving the puzzles yourself before reading the diary, remembering that you do have to read it sometime because it contains some crucial information. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1996. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
486DX2/66 or faster, 8MB RAM (16 recommended), 2xCD-ROM or faster (quad speed recommended), Win 3.1 (Win 95 recommended), SVGA video card (local bus recommended), 16bit 100% sound-blaster compatible video card, keyboard and mouse.