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Chronology review – Save time itself on Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Steam

Last month, a unique little puzzle platformer called Chronology made its way to Windows Phone. Chronology wowed us with its time-traveling mechanics that allow players to travel back and forth between time and even stop it, all in the name of solving puzzles and saving the world. It also features beautiful art and music.

Denmark-based developer Osao Games recently released a Windows 8 version of Chronology, and has even been thoughtful enough to make it an in-app purchase. I took advantage of that and played the Windows Phone, Windows 8 and 10, and Steam versions of the game (the latter is a separate purchase), in order to bring you this in-depth review.

Time gone awry

Chronology begins with the Old Inventor waking up in a future filled with strange and overgrown flora and fauna. Initially the protagonist suffers from explosive amnesia, though he regains his memory fairly early in the game.

As he searches for clues as to what destroyed the Metropolis and disrupted the balance of nature, he soon finds a watch. This is one of his inventions, and it allows him to jump back and forth through time. Soon he meets up with Snail, a giant talking snail with the voice of a child. Snail has the ability to freeze time. Together, the two must travel back in time and stop the Old Inventor's Mentor from destroying the Metropolis.

This is probably the coolest moment in the game, but it happens right at the beginning.

Game Play

Old Inventor can only run, jump, and interact with objects at first. Once he picks up the watch, he can hop back and forth between the past and the dark future.

Generally, the goal is simply to progress as you can in one time period until something blocks your way. Then you activate the watch to see whether the obstacle exists in the alternate time period. Sometimes a wall from the past will have crumbled into dust in the future, or an open path in the past will be blocked by overgrown vegetation in the future.

Before long, the puzzles become a lot more complex than just hopping between two worlds to move on. Ol' Inventor might need to place a seedling in just the right position so that it can grow into a climbable tree in the future, for instance. He'll often need to locate the parts to fix broken machinery, lowering a bridge or raising a platform. You'll have to switch back and forth between time periods more and more, but the puzzle design remains intuitive for the most part.

Snail adds a lot to the game play. Once he joins you, you can switch between him and the Inventor at any time. The snail can climb along walls and ceilings, and his shell often makes a convenient platform for reaching new heights. Snail's time-stopping ability will keep moving blades from killing the Inventor, stop a platform in place, and much more. The Inventor can also whistle for the Snail at almost any time, causing the shelled helper to warp over to his location.

Chapters

Chronology consists of eight chapters. The first three are free on Windows Phone and Windows 8. An in-app purchase of $2.99 unlocks the other five chapters (it's a universal purchase). The Windows Store pages incorrectly tease future chapters:

""Part II" is available in the game as an in-app purchase, with additional parts following later."

The game ends fairly decisively after Chapter VIII, so I don't think there will be any additional parts to this particular game.

If you enjoy Chronology's gameplay and story, you're definitely going to want to make that purchase so that you can finish the game. The first few chapters are fairly easy, but the puzzles in Chapters V-VII become dramatically more complex and difficult. The elevator ticket was a tricky one! The late-game puzzles should please puzzle and adventure game fans, but some players might be forced to look up guides on YouTube.

The solution to this puzzle involves breaking a kid's leg and crippling him for life. It doesn't really fit the tone of the game.

The actual setting of the levels becomes less and less interesting as the game goes on, however. The first chapter wows you with a gigantic insect, but wondrous creatures like that all but disappear before long. The last few chapters take place in a boring industrial environment, which doesn't help things.

At least the eighth chapter takes place in a more interesting lab environment. The Old Inventor will be forced to run through a gauntlet of platforming challenges without the aid of his watch or Snail. But then the actual boss fight is over far too quickly, like the stage itself.

The unfulfilled potential of Chronology's narrative

The story comes to life in two ways: voiced conversations between Old Inventor and Snail during gameplay, and cinematic sequences between chapters. These cinematics (while interesting) are drawn in a rough art style that looks markedly inferior to the in-game graphics. Usually it's the other way around in games. I wish the sprite artist(s) had handled the story art duties and given the game a more cohesive visual style.

Chronology's world and characters were inspired by the works of Hayao Mizayaki, acclaimed director of Spirited Away and Studio Ghibli films. You can definitely see a bit of Nausicaa influence early on when you meet a giant insect creature in the dark future. But I wouldn't say the story captures much of the depth that Studio Ghibli movies are known for. For starters, nothing has a real name. The characters are simply called Old Inventor, Snail, and Mentor, and the setting is the Metropolis. Those are placeholders, not real names.

Mild spoiler warning!

Early on, the Old Inventor laments his involvement in the cataclysm that led to the old future. But that never pays off. 99 percent of the blame lies at Mentor's feet; Old Inventor left long before Mentor's evil plan had started. Things would have been more interesting if the protagonist had actually caused the accident while attempting to do good (see the first episode of The CW's The Flash.) Then he'd have something to regret and the story would have more thematic depth.

Windows versus Steam

The Steam version of Chronology simply includes the full game as a single purchase. It costs a little more than the Windows 8/10 version, and lacks touch support. Both versions support keyboard controls.

The Steam game has one big advantage over Windows 8: Xbox controller support. You can't use a controller on the Windows 8 version at present, which stinks. Touch controls are fine, but there's no reason the tablet game shouldn't work with controllers. Hopefully Osao Games will fix that in the near future.

Overall Impression

The Windows Phone version of Chronology still needs to be updated to support resuming (as Mark noticed last month), and the Windows 8 version cries out for controller support. But whichever platform you go with, the game is still a fantastic platformer.

Chronology's time mechanics are fun and intuitive, leading to some clever puzzles that seldom frustrate. The gorgeous art and fantastic music makes for a beautiful and cartoon-like experience, even if the story doesn't go to the placed I would've liked.

Try the free chapters and find out whether you have what it takes to save the Metropolis and time itself!

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

53 Comments
  • Sry to go off topic, but when is the Lumia 930 denim firmware update supposed to go live? It's already late November...
  • I thought denim comes in January.
  • Yeah for other devices...
  • Soon (tm).
  • Hope so, but sorry, "tm" is...?
  • Trademark. "Soon" is like a Microsoft's trademark. Everything is soon, in a few months, weeks, whatever. They're playing a waiting game with us.
  • Exactly, the official announcement of Microsoft is always "soon". Can they even give us the specific dates? XD
  • Trademark - and no information has come out as to when Denim will begin rolling out, when information does come out, you'll hear it first on Windows Central. Stay tuned!
  • You might be sorry, but I wont forgive you.
  • How can Indians buy stuff on black Friday ?
  • So true how can anyone
  • Black Friday is basically the american version of the diwali bonanza sale or vice versa.
  • Oki... I like the deals better in US. How can I buy ?
  • Use a Mail box like Eshopex
  • Thanks
  • This game looks okay Paul.
  • Steam *pukes* The game looks nice though, I might play the free chapters someday. it's nice to hear they wanted to get inspired in Hayao Miyazaki stuff. I don't understand why this win8 version doesn't support xbox controller but anyway maybe someday, still it's nice I can buy it on the win store, and as an universal app, that's always good. ^_________________^  
  • What's wrong with steam?
  • Nothing. She just has weird opinions.
  • the game its excellent i wish we had more like this one and i wish too this one to be xbox live
  • Tried Machinima?
  • Do you mean "Machinarium"???
  • Yes, sorry.
  • Already bought this game 3 weeks ago and love it. I'm having some frame rate issues sometimes on my 630 when I switch through time in some relatively graphic intensive(lots of trees for example) scenes. Anyone else facing the same issue?
  • Not for me, but I play on a 1520.
  • Same here, runs wonderfully on my 1520! Love this game! Definitely one of my favorites...
  • I think this is the game of the year for Windows Phone. Its fun, light and beautiful. Plz plz I want more. I agree with Paul that the cut scenes are lazy, but over all this game is fantastic!
    When will they release next chapter! Feels like forever already!
    A note to people wondering, should ibtry this game? I play a lot of story driven games and HOPA (Artifex Mundi) and loved this title. Also, if you liked Machinima its in the same genre so its insta have then.
  • Wait... Do you mean "Machinarium"?
  • Yes, sorry.
  • There's a few contenders for a "Windows Phone game of the year" title. Chronology is definitely one of them... but don't forget Chimpact 2 Family Tree, Tentacles: Enter the Mind, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a couple... There's been some great games this year! Modern Combat 5: Blackout, Hungry Shark Evo... I could go on.
  • Definitely some good games there. But the easy to relax to and story is a winner in my book. And the snail is so cool.
  • Modern Combat 5 is a dude for me. It runs poorly even on a Lumia 1520, and the difficulty is poorly balanced.
  • Hmm, it runs great on my 1520. Do you have it installed on the phone or the SD card?
  • Meant to say dud! Installed directly to phone. The frame rate isn't as good as it should be, but not terrible by any means. I'd put up with it if not for the difficulty issues I encountered.
  • This game deserves a lot of attention, and while not ill intended, I was VERY sad to see that the comments butchered this nice review is off-topic.
  • Yeah, the excessive off-topicness is disappointing and annoying. *sniff*
  • Its official, WP fans have become spoiled. Time for a underground community, so we don't need to move around the normal users and can as in all cool culture, absorb the true values.
  • I love this game
  • This Game ist absolutely amazing. And it's worth every penny
  • Agreed!
  • I enjoyed the demo, but didn't purchase because i wasn't sure of how much content i was getting.   It's actually one of the first non simple games i've enjoyed on my phone. I'll probably buy the whole thing now that i know we get 5 more levels. One question, what does a "universal" purchase mean?   Can i play it on my hp stream 7 and my phone with only one purchase? 
  • If your PC has windows 8 and above I think you can
  • Buy once, play on any Windows Phone or Windows 8 or RT machine that you use.
  • Love the game and bought the expansion to finish it and show support to the devs, but the inability to resume when multitasking or even after waking the phone from standby is frustrating to say the very least... The game has been out for weeks and the problem isn't solved yet, I bought the expansion please give me some support :'(
  • Seconded!
  • Guys. Seriously. Windows Central provides forums for all of your questions. Who the heck reads a review on a game and decides "you know this looks like a great place to ask about a firmware update"
    P.s. Adding "sorry to go off topic" is like saying "I don't mean to sound racist,but...". Either does not excuse what you say next.
  • Nicely said, Kasey!
  • Sorry if I missed this, but does the game sync saves between phone and tablet?
  • Purchases sync but not save files.
  • Love the game, also bought it, but have been waiting for new levels for weeks!
  • Ah! the TRIAL game that claims to be FREE... That's easy: a 1 star review...
  • Exactly the wrong way to use user reviews and the wrong thing to take away from this review.
  • Downloaded and playing it ever since it was mentioned in WC. Love it