Blades of Time review – Getting kinky with my clones

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Meet Ayumi, an annoying ditzy blonde. I’m not sure if it is the voice acting, her lack of concern and interest in events around her or her oddly pointy boobs, but damn, this woman gives me a headache. There is nothing endearing about her and she looks more like a misplaced attempt at fan service than an actual character that we are meant to take seriously (even though she looks so much better than in X-blades).

Sadly, if the story was written in a tongue-in-cheek way, it might have gotten away with it. Maybe.

Ayumi attacks her guild master to get a shiny treasure that takes her to Dragonland, where she is helped by the mysterious Altar and some chick wreathed in fire who looks, oddly, just like Ayumi. If by this point you are banging your head on your keyboard, this game is not for you. However, if you can stomach a flimsy story with a protagonist that seems quite happy to take everything in her stride, Blades of Time offers pretty frenetic combat mechanics. While not as smooth as say, Bayonetta, the combat is fast and opens up into a slightly technical affair. Thankfully, since X-blades the developers have toned down the enemies, who had perfect accuracy and could chain juggle attacks together until death. Now that you have a fighting chance, and a few health packs for use in heavy fights, Ayumi has a better chance of seeing the end of the game. Ayumi uses her attacks to build up rage, which is then used to fuel spells. Bigger spells need more rage to cast, but are worth it.

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The Time Rewind mechanic takes some getting used to, as it feels counterintuitive and is completely different from other games that use time mechanics. When rewinding time, Ayumi stands still and watches a clone of herself move back in time, along with any other enemies or traps, as long as rewind is held. Once let go, the action will continue as it was when you played that section, except now you have control of Ayumi from where you were standing while watching the action. So you can, for example, attack a monster head-on, move away, rewind time to the start of the fight, and then attack from behind while your past self attacks head on. Confused yet?

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If you rewind again now, you will watch all of the actions you just performed get rewound, making another clone of yourself. Now the fight has three of you attacking one poor sod. This process can be repeated until you run out of rewind energy, or until your brain melts. This can also be applied in puzzles where you are required to stand on several buttons simultaneously. I must say, while I found it rather easy to achieve positive results in combat, sometimes circling foes with a clutch of clones all firing at the same target, the puzzles took some trial and error to get right. The first time I had to stand on two platforms long enough for me to reach a treasure without the spike trap reactivating, I went to bed with a sore head. Now I totally see why Douglas Adams said that time travellers require 1001 tenses

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Exploration is key to survival, with powerful weapons and amulets waiting in chests all over the world. Thankfully, Ayumi has a magical compass with two needles. The first points toward her current objective, with the second one pointing at nearby treasure. Hanging off her belt, the compass glows blue if treasure is nearby, rewarding observant players. When using the compass, the camera angle changes for a better view of the compass. Spin Ayumi around to get your bearings, or even just to have a better look at your surroundings. She can also get to hard to reach places by using her gun to free floating plants, which she can air dash towards to traverse great chasms. Even some boss fights require their use, to get away from large explosions and the like. Now if only the boss fights were epic…

Scoring:

Gameplay: 6/10.

While the combat is pretty impressive, having the game ignore a few button presses is really annoying. Ranged combat doesn’t gel with the rest of the game’s fluid movements.

Design and Presentation: 7/10.

The graphics really stand out, with amazing locales. The compass mechanic is something I hope to see in more games in future. Time Rewind is well implemented, though could have used a better tutorial.

Value: 5/10.

With a single player that lasts close to 10 hours and an uninspiring multiplayer, this game won’t keep you that busy.

Overall: 6/10.

Blades of Time enters the market at close to half price: instead of that R600 or so for a brand new console game, which is a great move for a non-AAA title. Gaijin Entertainment’s spiritual successor to X-blades makes a bucket of improvements, but still misses the mark. If you enjoy hack-n-slash, and don’t mind a B-grade title, Blades of Time is a good way to while away a few hours, if you aren’t expecting too much. A recommendation if you enjoy seeing unique, fresh ideas and don’t mind the other bits being subpar.

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