No Time to Explain

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by tinyBuild for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2011.
Pretty much everything you need to know about No Time to Explain occurs in its first 30 seconds. When you boot the game, rather than being taken to a title screen or menu, you see a happy guy doing a little dance in his living room when suddenly the wall of his house explodes, revealing another identical-looking guy – in different clothes and carrying a weapon of some sort – who says “I am you from the future. There’s no time to explain.” Just as suddenly, a giant crab claw emerges from the side of the screen and grabs the future you and pulls him away as he spews blood and screams. Fortunately, the attack caused him to drop his powerful laser cannon, which you pick up before giving chase.

Much of the game’s charm is derived from this simple premise, insofar as completely zany things keep happening for no apparent reason. Chasing the crab eventually reveals a hovering spaceship, which pulls the crab up into itself, along with your future counterpart. As you blast away at the ship’s spinning engines, an eyeball opens, revealing that the ship is actually organic. Once you blast it out of the sky, it falls to the ground where the crab emerges, but blasting away at the crab reveals that it is actually a robot! Once you destroy it, your new-found future buddy hops out of a door and a portal opens, sending you back in time to the living room of your past self, where the sequence appears to start anew with the wall bursting open. This time, you tell your past self that you are from the future and there’s no time to explain, but when the crab claw comes through, you kick your past self into it and chase him instead.

That’s Level 1. And it’s just a taste of what the game has in store for you. In fact, the first level is more of quick tutorial than anything, and the opening credits roll as you play. From there, you encounter more strange enemies and bosses while you laugh at your screaming self as he is pulled away. Much of the game’s humor comes from these outrageous exclamations, including such things as “My ribs are in my eyes” and “I’m sorry I pirated RollerCoaster Tycoon”. All of the lines are voiced by Dreux Ferrano Jr. who lends additional humor in his over-the-top presentation. It should be noted that the hilarious screaming bleeding man isn’t featured in every level, but there’s plenty of other nonsense to enjoy outside of this.


You start the game equipped with an extremely powerful laser weapon, but you don’t use it to engage enemies outside of the occasional boss fight. Instead, the weapon is used for environmental navigation. Jumping with the laser firing downward allows you to use the device as a jetpack, pushing yourself to higher ledges and flying haphazardly over rows of spikes. You can also blast your way through dirt blocks. Aim is controlled with the mouse, with the left button engaging the laser, while movement and jumping are handled with the arrow keys.


Most of the game’s progression comes from environmental navigation, tasking the player with surviving the movement from one side of an area to the other so that he may reach the warp portal and continue on. The penalty for failure is generally very low; the player is given infinite opportunities, with death resulting in a respawn at the last safe point. Your aim reticule remains in place when you respawn, allowing you to make subtle trajectory adjustments on future attempts for more complex navigation.


Additional objectives come in the form of hats that are spread throughout the environment, usually in hidden or hard-to-reach areas, tasking the player to explore thoroughly and master the mechanics. Each level has a certain number of hats to be found – and there are 60 in total – offering an optional challenge and allowing the player to change the character’s appearance with a variety of hats, new expressions, and even entirely new heads. Levels can be replayed at will by entering them from the level select interface.


Throughout the experience, the game permutes upon the laser flight mechanics by offering new situations, such as blasting through narrow spiked corridors, making quick short blasts to move slowly through the water, and pushing yourself in and out of lights that pull you horizontally through the air. And occasionally, the mechanics are changed entirely.


Early on, you are introduced to a new character (well, “introduced” probably isn’t the best word, but we won’t ruin the surprise) who wears a football helmet and wields a shotgun instead of a laser. Instead of using slow controlled burns to move around, you are suddenly faced with making huge shotgun-powered leaps, blasting yourself high into the air and across gaps. Levels played with this character are filled with spikes, forcing you to make high jumps and long precision leaps, and even falling from ledges and shotgunning yourself in mid-fall. And, for no explainable reason, the character is gone as quickly as he came, never to be played again… at least until Season 2 (see below).


The game offers further variety by offering a shmup sequence filled with dinosaurs and jets… and dinosaur-jets, as well as levels with rotatable rooms, pop-up spikes, and lights that bounce you quickly from one place to another. There are even several puzzles that require you to set yourself on fire to burn through barricades, but you have to put yourself out before you are fully incinerated, leaving you otherwise none the worse for wear.


There are several pattern-based boss fights as well, requiring that you actually use your weapon as a weapon. For the most part, these are low-risk affairs, with most attacks merely stunning you for a moment, leaving you to run around and aim hot photons at whatever monstrosity stands before you. In a couple of places, it is possible to die and have to restart the fight, but this is rare… at least until the boss encounter against the crazy drill-headed rodent, which is very tough and offers many ways for you to die once you get to its final phase of attack (this was the final boss in the original Season 1 release of the game). So, while you can generally experience all the game has to offer through trial and error, you won’t be able to bumble your way to the end credits.



Season 2
The latest release of No Time to Explain includes all of the content from the original game (Season 1), as well as that of Season 2, which introduces entirely new gameplay while retaining the madcap antics from the original. Season 2 picks up where you left off… sort of. As usual, the game prides itself on its lack of explanation, and you start playing as a version of yourself in a straightjacket. Rather than wielding a laser cannon, you now have a strange sort of elastic stretchy grapple beam that lets you click somewhere in the environment and fling yourself in that direction. This opens up a number of new gameplay possibilities, especially given that most walls and floors will kill you if you touch them. There are also challenges where specified areas prevent you from using your elasto-static band, forcing you to fling yourself over, around, and through them to continue. The flinging mechanic is applied a bit differently in a later set of levels.


From there, you get back into your previous laser-firing antics, with a few twists, such as levels filled with pieces of cake. Eating them causes you to become obese, preventing you from launching yourself into the air with your laser, but with the added bonus of being able to roll down hills and break through blocks just like Fat Wario in Wario Land 3. A few new gameplay elements are introduced along the way, including the triumphant an amazing return of the shotgunning footballer… once again, sort of. Overall the second season is more difficult than the first, with greater challenges and tougher boss fights.



2D CRED
No Time to Explain was developed by tinyBuild, headed by Tom Brien and Alex Nichiporchik. This was the studio’s first release. Season 1 was originally released in 2011, followed later by Season 2, which was free to owners of the original release. In 2013, the game was released via the Steam Greenlight program and included the content from both seasons.


TinyBuild went on to become a publisher and has published numerous indie games, including Phantom Trigger, Divide By Sheep, Party Hard, Punch Club, SpeedRunners, and Clustertruck, among others.

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