Video games are capable of making us feel all sorts of emotions, no matter how long the run time may be. Horror games are able to instill a strong sense of dread in a couple of hours, while adventure games can stretch out moments of excitement over a long period of time. In His Time focuses on giving us a sad tale that can be wrapped up in around 5 hours or so but still manages to keep us invested in its story.
We see ourselves in the shoes of a boy named Olly who lives with his mother in a small town. Olly is struggling to deal with this loss, and his mother suffers from a severe illness that leaves all the responsibilities on his shoulders. Along with this extra weight, he struggles to maintain good grades in his classes and is picked on by a group of kids who get some sense of joy out of bullying him. This game wastes no time showing you just how hard life has been for Olly and does a wonderful job of making you feel sympathy for him in the opening moments. Since the game seems to save every time we quit or transition to a new area, this is a nice game to pick up and play throughout the day.
It seems as if Olly has a morning routine that consists of different chores that his mother is incapable of doing on her own. While he maintains a loving and concerned outlook for her, this added pressure eventually causes him to explode. After lashing out at his mother and being dragged into a simple prank gone horribly wrong, Olly finds himself sitting with the old man who owned the house the kids were breaking into. He has one simple request for Olly and that is to see that the stolen items are returned. Although Olly is doing this to stay out of trouble, what he doesn’t know is that the man is also helping Olly through some of the grieving process.
Gameplay consists of some basic 2D side scrolling to get around the town, with a multitude of simple puzzles to help keep things engaging. While the puzzles range in simplicity, none of them are extremely time-consuming or exhausting. I was fully invested in the story here, so it was nice to know that the time spent with the puzzles wasn’t going to pull me away from the story. Occasionally, there will be dialogue that is uncovered during the course of the puzzle that will fill you in on things that are happening. There is one instance where we are playing as one of Olly’s bullies in a flashback and while we are working through some of the puzzles found here, we get some backstory on the relationship the bully had with their parents. We find out that they were the cause of their parent’s divorce, and they acted out in order to get attention. Having the story interweaved with the gameplay in a way that wasn’t intrusive really helped bring the narrative along. Outside of solving puzzles, there isn’t much else to In His Time’s gameplay. Olly is able to move across the screen as well as jump, but this isn’t used much outside of solving basic platforming puzzles.
The visuals here are very simple in a way that is pleasing to the eye. The background scenery is beautifully done, and moving Olly through the town was relatively simple. Each character has some distinguishing features to help us recognize them at a glance. The characters speak in a made up language and while this might frustrate some with the constant chatter, I always find it a nice addition for developers to at least add some kind of sound along with the text. Although some of the sounds do repeat quite frequently, I would rather have that than nothing at all. Along with the wonderful scenery is a beautifully composed OST. It is both fitting for every scene that it is accompanied by and does a good job of keeping with the mood.
One thing to note for those interested in picking this up is that there are a lot of themes that are specific to Christianity. While it was not overwhelming and did not cast a shadow over the story, the underlying towns are there and do stand out when it is brought up. I recall the first time that the Old man told Olly to go to church with him to help find forgiveness. This was not enough to keep me from enjoying the game, but is something that I feel some should be aware of.
Overall, I fully enjoyed my moments spent with Olly along his journey. Seeing him learn and grow as a person was a wonderful experience, and I often found myself rooting for Olly to overcome the challenges placed before him. The emotional aspects of this story have done an amazing job of keeping me invested in the story and is certainly one that I would recommend for those looking for a heartfelt journey.
- The puzzles are simple yet engaging
- Characters are easy to connect to and each have their own struggles that we see unfold
- Art direction and soundtrack are both beautifully done
- Auto saving is not always expressed very well.
- The underlying themes of religion can be off putting to some
Xavier grew up playing classics like Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, and Silent Hill, so the indie scene has been full of love letters for him.
A perfect day for him includes hours of grinding out levels and exploring creepy hallways in scary games.