Timemelters is your new favourite PS3 game. That’s not a dig at the graphics or the engine, it’s just the best way to describe how this game feels to play. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore, plucking out systems, flexing them and stacking them like a house of cards. Structural integrity? Never mind that. This has artistic integrity. Wild vision, followed through, and realised wonderfully.
There are snatches of tower defence within Timemelters, of RTS and third-person shooter. Of Pikmin and Overlord. Of the criminally overlooked Quantum League and the Clock Blockers skit that inspired it. Mostly though? It’s witchcraft.
That’s the celtic, wiccan kind of witchcraft, mind, rather than the costume store variety. You play as Teagan – possessor of supernatural abilities and owner of a jawline that could cut diamonds. When the dead rise and evil spirits plagued the land, the witches get blamed for everything, so it’s up to Teagan to stop things getting out of hand.
The early build I tried out was effectively a showcase demo of tutorialized abilities, ending with a few challenges that strung them all together. Many great things start with wheat – beer, wheat crunchies, Play-Doh – and so does Timemelters. Teagan is in a wheat field when a mob of bipedal zombie-goats in kilts called ‘pawns’ attack. I blast orbs at them, third-person shooter style.
Next, the game gives me a teleport spell, letting me mark a recall spot so that if an enemy makes contact with me, I’ll zap there instead of being hit. This sounds like it’d make things too easy, but I can only use it once, and I can only take a single hit before death.
Then, I get a Spirit Blast. It’s Fairly self explanatory. It’s a big blast of crowd-control energy, like a magic shotgun. The cooldown is massive, though, so selective use is essential.
Next it’s the ability to animate trees, turning them into vengeance-filled avatars of branch-slapping destruction, and creating vital roadblocks for the swarms of enemies barreling towards me. Teagan can take out a few foes no problem, but she’s not fast enough to hold off large groups for very long, though. Slowly, Timemelters reveals itself to be much more about tactics than crosshair placement.
An Earth Spirit ability is next, followed by a Fire Spirit. Earth entangles foes in an area of effect circle, while fire flings flame and pulls mobs towards itself, taking the pressure off Teagan. When I use either, the camera snaps to an isometric view, allowing me to lay them like traps. So I fire off some orbs, a blast, put some distance between me and the mobs. Lay down some spirits. Keep moving. Always keep moving. One hit means death, remember? It’s wonderfully tense.
Then I meet a centaur with an impressive gut who gives me time travel powers. I mean, sure, why not?. After the trees I’m pretty much up for anything. It works like this: I can create up to three time loops, so I’m effectively fighting alongside my past selves.
Some elements persist through time, like the teleport spell. The game demonstrates this by having me use one loop to close the distance between me and a villager under attack, and place a teleport recall point. The villager will no doubt be dead by the time I get there, but if I start another loop, time resets to when I first arrived in the village. The villager is alive and I can teleport to my recall point, take out the kilt-goats, and save them.
Surely that’s it, right? Wrong. There’s still more abilities. Teagan can now astrally project, leaving her body and speedily floating over the landscape. From this vantage point, she can still use her magic, too. Placing spirits and animating trees. It’s here Timemelters also introduces a full isometric tactical map mode that pauses the game, allowing Teagan to survey her surroundings.
With all this unlocked, the game throws me into a huge snowy plane with three lanes, six mobs of enemies, and tells me I have to protect the centaur. It’s here that everything comes together. Suddenly, I’m planning routes and desperately trying to work out which mobs are best to take out on which runs. Should I spend my first run sprinting up to the other side of the map and laying a teleport point, so I can immediately jump there at the beginning of the second run and bring all the trees to life?
Eventually, I activate a portal that links two sides of the lane, and work out that I can kite mobs towards the first portal, jump to safety, and then resume attacking from the other side. This, and frantic application of spirits, angry trees, and a bit of luck sees me through.
I am, to put it mildly, quite looking forward to seeing more of Timemelters, and not just so I can use that purple laser from the trailers. Whether the systems the demo introduced can sustain a full game is yet to be seen, but I’d love find out and to learn more about the world too. With this much creativity, oddness, and clever design squeezed into such a short showcase though, I reckon we’re in for something magic.