words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by OSAO Games for PC, originally released in 2014.
Chronology is a puzzle platformer starring an old inventor and a talking snail. Together, this duo must use their powers of time manipulation to make changes to the environment, interact with the creatures around them, and solve puzzles. Along the way, they learn more about the events that led to the world’s destruction, which came from the abuse of an energy source known as the Vapor that naturally rises up from underground.

When the game begins, the inventor finds himself lying on the ground, alone in the woods with no memory of what has happened, although there has clearly been an explosion of some kind. He discovers his pocket watch lying nearby, and finds that it gives him the ability to move through time, switching between the “Before” and “After” time periods. In the past, the world is lush and green, and society is at its greatest height, but in the future, the world is run down, and everything is in ruin.

The inventor has a 1.5x nonvariable jump, and he can pick up objects and carry them. His greatest asset is the ability to move through time, which is used to solve puzzles and for basic environmental navigation. Often, a ledge will be crumbled in the future, but fully formed in the past, allowing him to jump across a gap. Also, various manmade structures are crumbled or bent downward in the future, thus changing the landscape and affecting the height of platforms.

Players must occasionally repair objects in order to use them, or simply go back in time to when the device was functional. For instance, none of the elevated lifts, pressure-sensitive buttons, or switches are operable in the future, but the player may reverse time to make use of them. Players must use caution when moving forward in time, as this causes mechanical elements to stop working or disappear altogether.

In the early going, many obstacles are organic in nature, featuring leafy platforms and plants that act as levers and switches. Many of the organisms you encounter on your journey are a mixture of plant and animal life, featuring rooted creatures that have leaves but also eyes, mouths, and teeth. There are also some traditional plants, and the player may pick up a small plant in the future, carry it back to the past and stick it in the ground, and then move forward to use its fully formed branches as platforms.

In one puzzle, you encounter a plant that needs water. If you move into the future, you will find the plant dead on the ground with flies buzzing over it, but you cannot progress any further because there is a large body of water blocking the path ahead. However, you can pick up a bucket, fill it with water, give the water to the plant in the past, and then go back to the future where you will find that the plant’s vines extend all the way across the river, allowing you to pass safely.

There are many such puzzles throughout the game, and most of them have fairly logical solutions, requiring only a bit of experimentation on the part of the player. However, these puzzles do occasionally border on old-school adventure game contrivances, such as the multi-phase process required for getting an elevator ticket late in the game, involving a clerk who ignores you while she jabbers on the phone.

Overall, the game has a slow pace. The player is generally free to take his time to reach a solution to any given situation. There is very little penalty for failure here, and most puzzles can be solved by playing with every interactable object. Death only comes when failing platforming challenges and falling into a bottomless pit, or running into a dangerous obstacle, either of which will kill you instantly, at which point you will respawn at your last safe spot with all of your progress intact. There is one frustrating design problem, however, and that is the fact that it is possible to set an object down in a place where you cannot pick it up again, thus forcing the player to manually restart the level and play it again from scratch.

Early on, the player is required to mix his time travel abilities with platforming challenges, making numerous midair time shifts. However, this ability is called on less frequently after the player encounters the snail. Once you discover the snail and return her metallic shell, you gain the ability to swap characters at will. The inventor can also teleport the snail to his location (as long as he is on a wide span of solid ground), which is required since the snail cannot cross gaps on her own.

Unlike the inventor, the snail cannot jump, but she can climb on just about any surface. The inventor can ride on her back as well, allowing him to climb up or down a wall to get into new areas. You must also frequently place the snail to be used as a stepping stone to reach a high platform, cross a gap, or even drop down under an overhang. The snail cannot swap time zones, but she does have the ability to stop time altogether, allowing for new challenges where the inventor can manipulate the environment, use the snail to stop time, and then move around before things revert back.

Time stopping is sometimes required to freeze moving platforms, as well as rotating objects and saw blades, which allows the inventor to complete platforming challenges. One particularly clever puzzle requires the player to use the inventor to load a cannon and fire it, switch to the snail to stop time, switch back to the inventor to press a button and light the cannon ball on fire in midair, resume time, and then use the flaming cannon ball to burn a door. At his point, the player is free to pass through the now-burned door, only to discover that an additional bit of strategy is required to move forward.

The game features fully voiced dialogue and narration, and each of the levels is bookended with a cutscene that explores a bit more of the story. In addition, there are several dialogue exchanges between the inventor and the snail during the levels themselves, offering a bit of extra character definition and exposition.

The game features eight levels, most of which are fairly short. The game’s biggest challenge comes from solving puzzles, so once you know the solutions, there is little reason to return to the experience. In addition, much the narrative consists of a buildup to some sort of confrontation with the inventor’s mentor and a dangerous and powerful device known as the Verve. Ultimately, the game falls short on these expectations, both narratively and mechanically, offering an abrupt end to an otherwise slowly-escalating casual experience.

Chronology was developed by OSAO Games, based in Aalborg, Denmark. The studio was founded in 2010 by Thomas Nielsen, Fredrik Olsson, and Henrik Lunardi Weide, and this was the studio’s first commercial release. The game originally began development under work-for-hire studio Progressive Media, but the studio went under, with the title being picked up and completed as an indie release.