There’s a reason you don’t see a lot of solid 3D games on the indie channel; it’s a bitch to get it right. Not content just to occupy three dimensions, Chronodash (80 MSP) attempts competency at a very difficult sub-genre, the first-person platformer. What perplexes most AAA developers should, from a logistical point of view, be a nightmare for an indie team, which in this case, is one guy.
This isn’t going to be a overly positive review, so let me get the highest praise I can offer Chronodash out up front. The game does a good job (90% of the time) at the controls. In any other article I write, you could read this, nod, and move on. Even the most floaty-feeling controls won’t completely destroy playability, but in 3D? In first-person 3D? It could have been a death sentence. I mean, depending on how far you’re pushing the thumbstick at the point of a jump, you may still overshoot the platform, but all things considered, it’s surprisingly sure-footed. That the developer pulls this off deserves a special mention.
The game is intended as one big speed run; climbing darkened corridors, jumping lava-filled pits, and riding platforms. There are no breaks. You must drop checkpoints manually. There’s some misdirection and frustration involved, but mostly you’re following progress arrows and collecting coins to continually feed a wonky timer.
With the timer, the implication is that you’ll explode (‘exploding’ typically leading to death) once the clock ticks down to zero. Except you don’t. In fact, as far as I can tell, there isn’t a single penalty for getting goose eggs across the board. Chronodash doesn’t freeze or ‘game over’, and you’re still able to drop save points at will. A quickening heartbeat portending trouble, then nothing. A fizzle. Like a Mission Impossible or Inspector Gadget gag where the message doesn’t self-destruct, so do you not self-destruct. Odd… You got me, Chronodash (sweating, nervous laughter). I was worried there for a second.
If you love to wear the comforting blanket of familiarity (and don’t we all), you may, like me, recognize that some of the art and / or sound effects in this game are remarkably similar (read: exact) to last year’s Escape From Robot Doom, also from Total Commitment Games, which I recall playing and feeling mostly lackluster about.
Chronodash is a much better game mechanically, though it still falls far short of a buy. There’s a good base, but you get the impression the developer had ideas to further it, then either ran out of time or desire. There’s no extras. Add to this the short playtime (35-40 minutes to finish the course), the dull grey walls / sparse chambers, as well as generally unexciting platforming, and yeah, it’s a pass.