At this point in our history, it’s pretty safe to assume that Bejeweled has more clones than George Lucas’ galactic empire. That’s assuming Bejeweled itself isn’t a clone of some unfortunate puzzler pushed into obscurity. While Time Machine is, strictly speaking, not a Bejeweled clone, it borrows a lot from Pop Cap games like Zuma and Bejeweled and adds its own bizarre twist on things. On a personal level, I admit to being a bit of addict when it comes to match-3 puzzlers. They are a bit of a guilty pleasure and I can get very quickly absorbed into a casual bout of swapping tiles and demolishing gems. Such games don’t even have to be particularly special to get me going which makes Rogue Pilot’s inability to hook me all the more significant.
Much like Bejeweled, the game consists of a grid of various colored gems. Matching 3 or more of the same color causes the gems to explode and, naturally, more fall in to replace them. So far it sounds the same as the Pop Cap classic, doesn’t it? The difference here is that you cannot swap gem tiles. Instead, you target a gem with a cursor and replace it was the color indicated on the gem canon located at the bottom of the screen. The canon color can be toggled among 3 available to you. Canon color availability changes depending on the color you’ve displaced on the board. Block gems can not change color, nor can colored gems that are infused with bonus stones or power-ups. The point of the game is to achieve the set target score before time runs out. If this all sounds dull, that would be because it really is. Despite a variety of different power-ups that can help rack up the multipliers, there aren’t any notable features that can can really differentiate Time Machine from the already saturated match-3 puzzle genre. Furthermore, as you progress, meeting the allocated time becomes more and more difficult as the game compels you to alter gem colors in rapid fashion. Yet this seems to be at odds with the mechanic of adjusting the canon color. Therefore, to meet the time limits, its often best to forget about changing the canon color and sticking to the one that is automatically assigned as much as possible, ultimately resulting in an overall stale and generic experience.
Upon completing a handful of levels, players will be faced with one of the most absurd bonus levels I’ve ever seen. At this point, it is worth noting that Time Machine’s inconsequential story revolves around…you guessed it, time travel. Based on this premise, the various level sets or worlds are labeled as past epochs such as the Stone age or the Bronze age etc. This doesn’t influence much beyond the puzzle’s background image, but this image does become more central in the bonus stages. These stages consist of pictures of modern day objects such as light bulbs, screwdrivers or even trains scattered around the scenic background image corresponding to the specific age. The point is to locate these out-of-place objects and shoot them with the canon cursor. If this sounds a bit odd then wait till you actually see it. Considering the game allows you to skip these levels suggests that even the game designers found it difficult to take these segments seriously. That said though, despite their truly bizarre nature, these levels are all that distinguishes Time Machine from the heaps of sub-par puzzle games on the market today…and that is quite sad, for lack of a better word.
Arguably even more bizarre than the bonus levels is that mood indicator on the bottom right of the screen. There you will see a short live-action video loop of of a person who’s general mood serves as an indication of how well or badly you are performing. For example, for the majority of my time with the game, the woman would shake here head in disdain. I once caught her smiling but that faded into a weary yawn rather quickly. How appropriate.
While Time Machine is hardly the worst puzzle game I’ve ever played, I find it difficult to recommend to anyone, especially with superior similar games available on every gaming platform being sold on the market today.