Timelapse: Ancient Civilizations

Bring a camera, notebook and perhaps Erich Von Däniken.

To some degree, Timelapse is an interactive version of the History Channel’s wildly successful Ancient Aliens series, which purports that past civilizations couldn’t possibly have erected their magnificent stone monoliths and temples by themselves – therefore aliens. We’re all familiar with this age-old take on ancient history since Von Däniken wrote his ‘Chariots of the Gods’ (1968), but the idea is undeniably exciting the first time you hear about it – wouldn’t it be strangely awesome if it were true?


Lots of ancient temples to ransack in Timelapse.

The biggest difference here is that you don’t get to just poke around ancient ruins looking for evidence of ET’s past meddlings In Timelapse, you’re trying to track down your long lost colleague Professor Nichols. He’s devoted his entire career to searching for proof of the lost city of Atlantis, and disappeared while investigating his findings on Easter Island. It’s not long after you start playing that you track down the motherlode of extraterrestrial technology hidden just underneath Rapa Nui – a device that allows you to time travel between four great ancient civilizations, offering the bulk of the game’s exotic sights and puzzles.

From a design standpoint, Timelapse offers nothing new over any other Myst clone. Designed around rendered still screens, this is a workmanlike point-and-click affair where you can only go to certain areas and click on certain objects. You are all alone in the game except for occasional full-motion video clips of the loopy professor and the Guardian of Atlantis (your main adversary).

The worlds of Timelapse are graphically beautiful, rich in detail, and full of puzzles. And the designers deserve credit for making many of these puzzles tie in to their respective worlds. For example, on the Egyptian world, you must figure out the Egyptian method of counting. And on the Anasazi world, you have to weave a Native American-style blanket. But, unfortunately, all these informative, world-based puzzles are thrown in with oh-so-exciting puzzle staples like a tile-slider, a variation of “rock, paper, scissors”, or a variation of Simon (a color-coded memory exercise).


Ah yes, the crocodile puzzle, just one of several ‘doesn’t-belong-in-an-adventure-game’ situations.

When you come to the really tough puzzles, you will most likely discover that you’re at a dead end. Timelapse is mostly linear, and each world has several smaller puzzles that connect to the world’s main puzzle, so you’re stuck in that world until you solve everything. And, after wading through four CDs of puzzles to finally get to the big climax, it’s a major disappointment. There are alternate endings (in a few of them, you end up dead), but none of them are satisfying. Plus, the final puzzle is relatively easy, requiring nothing more than shooting in the right direction and moving quickly through the world. A total letdown to any gamer who’s suffered through all of the good and bad puzzles of Timelapse.

Quibbles aside, this game is a good entrance into a corner of the gaming market that was a veritable wellspring of activity. It goes through the usual pit-falls of past Myst-inspired productions – the lack of characters, some nonsensical conundrums, a paper-thin story that goes nowhere – but at the same time we get to enjoy some cool ideas thrown in there as well, first of which is the game’s exotic and very diverse setting. All in all, it’s not that terrible if you’re into this sort of stuff.

System Requirements:486/DX66 CPU, 8MB RAM, 50 MB HDD, SVGA, Windows 95

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