A bigger problem lies with the controls. At odd moments, when you push a button nothing happens onscreen. You try to dash out of the way or initiate a finisher, and Ayumi stands stock-still while a baddie pummels her to a pulp. Such a problem is maddening in the best of times, but when your health is low, this unresponsiveness rises to the next level of frustration. Ayumi carries up to three health packs at a time, and you need them because her health bar can be drained with just a couple of hits. Ideally, you refill your health and reestablish your dominance. But such an option isn't always possible. You might be caught in an animation that precludes you from healing, and having your precious life leak away because the game won't let you have a bite of that tasty health is a horrible way to die. To make matters worse, you might slam on the button multiple times to ensure you're healed, only to watch in horror as two of your reserves are used up in your frantic taps.
6366658Considering she can control time, Ayumi has a big advantage in very fight.None
The unresponsiveness carries over to every move in your arsenal. It's not something that happens frequently, but it happens often enough to be the cause of many deaths. Whether the buttons work or not, magic is difficult to pull off. At various points in the game, Ayumi finds an altar that grants her special powers. Conjuring fire, throwing ice, creating earthquakes, and summoning other elemental attacks enliven the combat. But the more powerful spells require you to hold one button and then tap another, and these have a noticeable delay. It takes away some of the thrill of filling the screen with fire when your health is sapped because you were stationary for so long. Still, once you figure out how to use magic, it does add another dose of excitement to your hacking and slashing. You build your magic meter by attacking, so you enter a smooth rhythm of slicing baddies, shooting magic, and then repeating, until all fall at your feet.
Frequent spikes in difficulty occur mainly because of the unreliable controls. Many of the harder battles enter the land of frustration because you can't heal in time or you fail to initiate a finishing blow when you most need to. In practice, the controls fail only a small percentage of the time, but that doesn't diminish how problematic this is. For the most part, the high challenge level is a welcome aspect of Blades of Time. Once you learn the basics of how to use your time-manipulation ability, the game unleashes swarms of foes with varying strengths and weaknesses to force you to take a creative approach to combat. You may stave off an advancing horde with your gun, rewind time, and then take out air attackers while your clone continues to fire into the crowd. Or you can summon a clone to serve as a distraction while you unleash waves of magical death from a distance. The tools to complete the most difficult sections are always in your grasp; it's just a matter of deciphering the best method of conquest and executing your plan with precision.
The snowy forest is an ominous place.
Challenges also arise during more contemplative sections. Time bending is ripe for intriguing puzzles, and there are enough brain teasers in Blades of Time to keep you invested outside of the demon slaying. The best of these appear in a desert-themed level. Sun is your biggest enemy when direct contact with light burns your delicate skin, so manipulating shade is paramount to your survival. Coordinating clones to step on switches while you dash through the newly formed darkness injects Ayumi's graceful movement into even the more thoughtful moments. Later puzzles fall short of the mark. Creating a ball of energy to light nodes is tedious at best, though these puzzles are easy enough to not distract you from the combat for long.
Even during its low point, Blades of Time presents nicely detailed environments to tear through. Technical issues (disjointed animations, inconsistent framerate, blinding particle effects) are initially off-putting, but what the game lacks in polygon-pushing prowess, it makes up for in sheer variety. Sky gardens is the most captivating section. Flowered bulbs rise high into the wide-open sky while waterfalls empty into shallow pools, and the fantastic wonder this scene creates is a pleasing contrast to the somber winter scenes in a later level. There are enough unique environments to keep your eyes pleased as you peer at the various tapestries. Considering that Blades of Time retails at a budget price ($40), the fact that it sports so many differing locales is a welcome surprise.
Whoever planted a garden in the sky is brilliant.
Another unexpected addition: multiplayer. Both competitive and cooperative modes are available, but neither is engaging. Your time power has been stripped away here, leaving you with a smooth though bare-bones combat system that quickly grows old. But you have to take the bad with the good in Blades of Time. The promise of its inventive time mechanics is occasionally realized. However, you do have to put up with so many down moments that your dedication may intermittently waver as you push through to the end. Novelty comes at a price. Blades of Time's uneven construction struggles to maintain its high potential, but it's sheer uniqueness makes it well worth spending time with.