What do you get when you combine 3D graphics and a well-crafted storyline with the world’s worst gameplay? Michael Crichton’s Timeline. This game – the first from Crichton’s own development team — proves that you can take an enjoyable book written by a top-notch author and turn it into an unplayable game.

Timeline is a first-person adventure game that takes you into 14th-century France to solve a series of mind-numbingly boring puzzles, most of which seem to involve following a well-marked path, sliding uncontrollably down a hill, or throwing stuff at people. Rather than make you solve puzzles by exploring and thinking, all you do is follow the instructions of your annoying sidekick Kate, who steers you through it all.

19_1You start the game in the near future as a member of some sort of organization (there wasn’t much explanation) that has access to a time machine. Apparently, a colleague of yours has been trapped in medieval France, and it’s up to you to save him. After a laughable 30-second tutorial session, you’re issued a pointy stick called a stun wand (so there’s no blood and gore even after being shot, stabbed, sliced, and burned) and sent back in time. Soon after you get to medieval France, one of your partners gets killed. Unfortunately, he was carrying the time machine activator, which breaks when he falls over.

The game then turns into a series of puzzles that would barely challenge a third-grader. Most of them require no thinking at all, because your sidekick outlines everything for you. There are also a few jumping puzzles. Because everybody loves jumping puzzles. Timeline is packed with examples of what not to do when making a game. The sound is horrible; the characters’ voices are too quiet, there is no background music at all. It’s also very short; the whole game can be wrapped up in about four hours, which could have been a blessing in disguise. Timeline is one of those odd, experimental ventures into gaming that tried to both educate and entertain. It failed.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, 400 MB HDD, Win95

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