TIMEframe on PC
Every so often, the indie games field produces something that makes me wonder how we’re really meant to define a game. TIMEframe, by Random Seed Games, certainly left me with this feeling. A game focused on exploration and the player experience, this meditative and slow-moving title throws out a lot of the traditional aspects found in other games. There’s no points system, no stated objectives, none of those goal-oriented tasks that are the core of many gaming experiences. Instead, players are left to explore the world on their own in timed chunks that loop back through as many times as it takes.
TIMEframe is pretty disorienting at first, since there’s nothing telling you what to do or where to go. You begin in a large structure called the Spire, and the only means you have for interacting with the world is a text that tells a bit of the backstory. Further details must be found through your own investigation as you walk slowly through the world, looking for points of interest and filling out a semi-coherent map of the various structures that make up the available world. Each point of interest tells a different aspect of the tale of a dying world with no means of salvation.
As players explore TIMEframe, the only other moving object is a slow-moving comet that looms in the distance. As time progresses, this ominous space-rock lurches toward the Spire; when it makes contact, the screen goes white, and players are returned to their starting position. The only evidence of any kind of progress is that each point of interest visited remains active on the haphazard map that displays the layout of the world and the places visited. This, too, is very disorienting the first time that it happens, but ends up serving as a great way to know just how much time you’ve got left to explore on any given run.
And really, that’s what there is to TIMEframe. A slow, methodical exploration backed with a soothing soundtrack and the ever-present threat of — well, not really death, but another beginning. While this may not appeal to those who prefer more action or gratification from their gaming, there’s something relaxing about the experience. I’ve seen comparisons to titles like Dear Esther or Gone Home, but I’m not sure either is entirely appropriate given the much less guided feel that Random Seed has put together. I can see where these stem from, though, simply due to the calm, atypical experience that the game presents.
Ultimately, it’s difficult for me to give a recommendation for or against TIMEframe, if only because it’s such a singular type of experience that it holds. The best way that I can think to say it is that if you’re looking for something that’s slow, calm, and without any pressure to accomplish concrete goals, it’s almost certainly worth a look; the graphics are solid, the music is fantastic, and the lack of difficult objectives or enemies to overcome lends itself to losing yourself in the simple act of discovery. The story that unfurls as players visit each map location is one that is designed to make you think, rather than one that’s there to paint an elaborate picture. Still, for the $7.99 price on Steam, those who’ve enjoyed games that stretch the boundaries of what make a game can make a low-risk investment to check it out. If you’re not the gambling type, a prototype version is available for free at Itch.io as well.