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  Mechanic #066 - The Long Rewind

Category: Time
Posted: 12/14/07

An extension of entry #023 The Long Road, where moving backwards reverses time.


The entry [#023 - The Long Road] created a situation in which moving forward in the level also equalled moving forward in time. This begged the question, what happens when you move backwards? Do you move backwards in time?

At the time, my response was that you simply couldn't go backwards. My goal was to do something with the Roguelike genre, not muck around in chronological metaphors. But I thought it was a neat idea... I just didn't know how to work it.

Since then, I've come up with several possible ways to use that mechanic. This is one of them.

  Mars Attacked


You play a research scientist working on a top secret time travel project and have thus far been unsuccessful. Let's say it takes place on Mars, just so that I can go with a visual theme for the illustrations that sets this entry apart from previous ones.

Unfortunately, during one of your experiments, the colony is attacked by aliens seeking the time device. Their bombardment causes the the device to explode, catching your character in some sort of weird time field thing, knocking you unconscious. When your character is awake, the entire colony is destroyed, all the people dead but you. You also discover that you've fused with the time field and can now rewind time, one step at a time.

Two turns after you wake up, the entire colony is destroy by a sabotaged shield generator. Your goal is to travel back in time, step by step, toward the shield generator and stop it from being sabotaged. You cannot stop the alien attack completely, but you can prevent the sabotage as well as place traps along the way to turn the battle in your favor.

  But How Do You Play?

Basically, each step to take backwards (to the left) takes you one step back in time. Each step you go forwards (to the right) takes you one step forward in time. You can go backwards, change the outcome of something that has already happened, and benefit from it. For example:


Frame 1: Your scientist has discovered an alien invader standing over the corpse of a dead colonist.

Frame 2: By stepping left one step, you reverse time one step, thus the colonist is restored as the bullets from the invader's gun goes backwards in time back into the magazine.

Frame 3: With the colonist restored, you beat the living crap out of the alien with a big stick.

Frame 4: There is much rejoicing.

Frame 5: Now if you continue to the right, time moves forward - only now the colonist is alive instead of dead. Perhaps he can unlock a shed or something back to the right now that he breathes. You can rescue colonists on a permanent basis by placing traps at locations where you know the aliens will beam in. That way the aliens die before they have a chance to kill anybody.

  Out of Step With Time

Your scientist is out of step with time. This means that he will not encounter his past self or future step. His own personal time line is always moving forward, even when everybody else is being jerked back and forth. Of course, eventually the aliens themselves capture the time device and outfit certain units with the ability to be out of step with time.

Enemy units which activate this ability will move in your timeline rather than the world timeline. They will not cause time to move forward or back with their movements. They just won't be directly controlled. However, that doesn't mean you can't use time to your advantage. Perhaps you can reverse time so that a wall that was previously destroyed is reformed... right on top on an enemy soldier! Also, out of time invaders are killed once they are destroyed, so you don't have to set up traps to retroactively get them.

  Dec 17, 2007 Update

I don't usually update old entries since I'm usually more worried about the next one, but I don't feel like I've properly explained the potential of this idea. So here is one more attempt at explain the type of puzzle I see for this particular game.


The core principle at work here is cause and effect. You see the effect of something, then go back and change the cause to get a new effect. In the first frame, a car backs into a barrel, sending it shooting forward, killing a colonist. (Yes, they have cars on Mars, smart ass).

Well, obviously, this is a bad thing since you are trying to save the colonists, so you go back and move the barrel to a new location. Success! Frame two shows that the barrel now gets shot across the level, missing the colonist completely. Unfortunately, the invader still beams in during that turn and shoots the colonist.

Hmm, you think to yourself, I need a more permanent solution. So you go grab another barrel from somewhere and place it in the way of the previous one, thus causing it to bounce back and hit the invader and saving the colonist. Now, whether you go forward in time or back, this sequence of events will play out identically - unless of course, you somehow change something in the past and affect whether the car backs up or not.

The goal of the game is to save all the colonists, and you do this by making sure that the game world, when played from beginning to end, is set up like one giant Rube Goldberg machine. A series of chain reactions that conveniently eradicates the enemy threat and saves all the colonists. The fact that you are working backwards is what makes this a possibility. Knowing where you have to be in three turns is possible, but knowing where you have to be in a thousand turns is not.




Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.