What do you get when you combine time travel, hidden objects, and a match 3 game? You get Time Machine: Rogue Pilot, the new puzzle game from Russian developer Lesta Studio that landed on PSN this week. Should you go back in time with this innovative puzzler? Read on . . .
At first glance, you might look at some of the screenshots for Time Machine: Rogue Pilot and label it as a Bejeweled clone, but that’s not entirely true. While it shares the familiar match 3 concept made popular in recent years, the game introduces several original elements that help separate it from the rest of the pack.
For starters, it has a story. Yes, an actual plot from beginning to end. Here’s the setup: a brilliant scientist has just invented a time machine, when an unscrupulous villian named Jack steals it so he can destroy the world. Now it’s up to the female protagonist Ilona to chase him through different time periods and retrieve it. It’s simple premise, but it sets the stage for the multiple eras you will be visiting throughout the story mode.
The playing field in Time Machine: Rogue Pilot consists of eight rows of eight tiles made up of various colors and shapes. The goal is obviously to match three or more similar colored tiles in order to make them disappear and score points. The twist here is that rather than rearranging the tiles to match them, you paint them different colors using a cannon located at the bottom of the screen. You can choose between three different colors for your cannon by using the L1 and R1 shoulder buttons, and then firing with the X button once you’ve found a match.
The gameplay is noticeably faster than most match 3 games, but it only takes a few minutes to get into the rhythm. Before long you’re chaining together enormous combos and clearing tiles nearly as fast as they appear. A bonus system allows you to select among six different perks that appear randomly on tiles, successfully destroying these tiles triggers the bonus. For example, a stick of dynamite will blow up an entire horizontal row of tiles, an hourglass adds 10 seconds of time, and lightning destroys multiple tiles of the same color. These perks adds an extra layer of depth and strategy, giving you one more thing to consider when choosing were to fire your cannon.
Another twist is the persistent “mood-o-meter”, which is indicated by the real-time reactions on Ilona’s face in the corner of the screen. Besides letting you know how you’re doing, her mood meter fills up the faster you destroy tiles and chain together combos. When the meter is fully charged, it unleashes a devastating attack that destroys most of the tiles on the screen.
The other primary component of Time Machine: Rogue Pilot is a hidden object mini-game that requires you to find a specified number of hidden items that don’t belong in that time period. For instance, a spaceship that’s flying around in the stone age probably shouldn’t be there, should it? These puzzles appear after every few levels in the story mode, and completing them earns you an upgrade to your perk system. They’re a fun diversion that only takes a minute or two, but offers a chance to catch your breath between the increasingly difficult story levels.
Besides the story mode, Rogue Pilot features six extra game modes that provide interesting variations from the traditional gameplay — Time Rush, Score Rush, Puzzle, Blockers, Tiles Rush, and Crystal Rush. They’re all fun diversions and they give you a reason to keep playing long after you’re finished with the story mode. A leaderboard system is in place for the ultra-competitive types.
Time Machine: Rogue Pilot is a fun and creative take on the popular match 3 concept. I enjoyed it a lot and found myself losing track of time while playing it, no pun intended. Lesta Studio have added their own spin on the familiar genre and created something they can call their own. It’s an excellent puzzle game for the PS3 and well worth the $6.99.
Review Score: 8.5 out of 10
Time Machine: Rogue Pilot is available now on PSN for $6.99, a free demo is also available. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review.