Also, there are about six hundred thousand menus in the game, some of which are active all the way through your shot. You know what Kinect loves? Menus. It loves nothing more than interrupting gameplay to scroll through them, to screw up a carefully-placed shot, to disrupt your timing in a game that is LITERALLY based on timing, and to make you feel as frustrated as humanly possible. Someday, Kinect might make Tiger Woods a next-level game. That day is, quite decidedly, not today.
Par For the Course
So, in the end, there’s some new, there’s some old, and there’s some very confusing, but, essentially, it comes down to this. If you are a fan of the Tiger Woods series, you’re going to find something in this game that adds an additional challenge. Soon, though, EA is going to run out of other parts of Tiger’s life to mine, people will get upset with the draconian online commerce system, and they’ll be tired of trying to figure out poorly done motion control. And then, what will be left? Not a whole lot.
Blades of Time is a game about rewinding time that just so happens to also be a spiritual successor to the poorly received X-Blades. While developer Gaijin Entertainment can’t go back and prevent that abomination from happening, it can do the next best thing by creating a game good enough that we can begin to forget about their previous unpleasantness. Blades of Time may suffer from a thoroughly obnoxious protagonist and pitiful writing, but beneath its generic trappings lies a surprisingly well-made hack-and-slash title with an interesting central mechanic.
Army of Me
This may not be apparent from the beginning, however, as Blades of Time gets off to a rocky start. Protagonist, Ayumi, has transitioned from an anime pinup girl to a stereotypical blonde airhead trying to be Lara Croft. She’s even adopted a British accent. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, she begins the game slaughtering a room full of fellow treasure hunters, only to gain access to an orb that transports her to the mythical land of riches, Dragonland. (Can we all take a moment to appreciate that it’s actually called Dragonland?)
This confusing display of homicide is the least of Ayumi’s problems. Much more detestable is that she never shuts up. She spends the entirety of the game spouting out cringe-worthy dialogue like, “So the altars are sources of strength. Cool!” to no one in particular. She’s a bit like Charlize Theron’s character from Arrested Development, only without the humor.
It doesn’t help that the story is so forgettable that I’ve actually forgotten it. Apparently my brain figured it wasn’t worth the mental real estate to commit to memory, which doesn’t bode well when it remembers such useless crap as the lyrics to the Perfect Strangers theme song.
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Thankfully, these red flags are downplayed once the combat system picks up steam. Blades of Time switches effortlessly between button mashing sword swings and third-person shooting. The focus is squarely on the former, but the latter is handled well despite there only being a few firearms. Whether you run and gun with a rifle, hunker down with a machine gun that requires standing still to fire, or slice away with your dual katanas, the combat is malleable enough to suit most playstyles. Your primary close quarters attacks don’t feel particularly powerful, but successive combos will build up your rage meter, allowing you to unleash elemental spells that reign down upon foes with a thunderous crash.
This is all well and good, but Blades of Time’s most unique attribute is Ayumi’s ability to rewind time. (This doesn’t have anything to do with her titular blades, incidentally, but I guess “Blades and Time” wasn’t so snappy a title.) Unlike the similarly titled Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, tinkering with the fourth dimension doesn’t simply reverse the last several seconds, but rather creates an alternate reality in which your prior selves replay your previous actions while you’re free to go about your business. These ghostly duplicates can not only distract enemies, but hurt them as well. Fire into a mass of foes, rewind, then watch your past self do it again while you hack away from the rear. Before you know it there are several apparitions of Ayumi slashing and shooting about, causing all sorts of mayhem. Balancing this on top of the already fleshed out combat system can get messy, but there’s a devilish delight bringing about such chaos.
Despite this, there are a few issues with combat. Tapping left on the d-pad to heal only works when you’re not otherwise occupied with an attack animation, so it’s easy to panic and tap it multiple times until it registers only to accidentally heal yourself twice. The sliding/dodge maneuver takes a little too long to recover from and context sensitive counters are finicky, due to it not always understanding which enemy your responding to. Still, these are minor glitches in an otherwise outstanding system.
Time Enough at Last
Outside of combat there’s a smattering of puzzles and platforming, though neither rise above the rudimentary. Too many puzzles rely on the same copy/paste designs of tasking players with standing on two or three switches at the same time. Solve this once, and you’ve solved it a dozen times, yet the game is content to keep throwing it at you. Given that The Misadventures of Mr. P.B. Winterbottom stretched the same time-based concept into a full puzzle game, it’s disappointing that Blades of Time’s brain teasers peter out so early.