A review of rewind mechanisms
In this post, I'll go over my thoughts on time rewind as a mechanism. To clarify, I mean manipulating time as a gameplay mechanic and not just the idea of time travel as a whole within the plot. Also, to be more specific, I'll be going over time rewind and not bullet time (which I should do a separate post about).
Let's take three cases. These are games that I have played that included this time rewind mechanic.
1. Race Driver: Grid
Rewind in a racing game? Sounds simple right? That's because it is. The mechanism, dubbed 'flashback', feels like you are watching a replay of the footage and just hit the rewind button. With a few cuts it puts you back into the driver seat and you continue on with the race. Examples can be seen for GRID and GRID 2
How do I rate it?
Effectiveness : 9 / 10
The mechanic is super effective, especially for people like me who crash all the time! You also have the freedom to stop rewinding at any point, which ensures that you are comfortable with your position when the game resumes. The only reason I gave this a 9 instead of 10 is because good drivers don't crash and have no use for this feature, we all know that!
Satisfaction : 2 / 10
While the mechanic is great and was a visual treat when it first came out, it takes away a lot of thrill associated with a racing game. Even in a virtual world, you need to wrangle with the risk and reward element and this mechanic nullifies that. Sure, it's cool and useful the first few times. But you soon realize, that it has made your game very safe and the satisfaction I used to gain from beating hard levels was completely missing in my runs within this game.
Overall, I would stay away from rewind mechanics in racing games. They can help you showcase some slick visuals but they undermine the basic nature of racing games.
2. Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
POP:WW is one of my all-time personal favourite games and I can talk on length about it. Some other POP games also implemented the rewind feature but I'm choosing this one because it ties in with a lot of other gameplay elements.
Watch the mechanic in action here!
Effectiveness : 8 / 10
Similar to GRID, this was an extremely useful tool to get out of sticky situations. However, there were so many scenarios that this ability could be used in. Made a wrong turn in a chase? Lost your balance on precarious ledges? Or just didn't land the perfect combo on the enemy? The possibilities were endless. The power of this skill was well balanced by the duration of the spell and the interval between the recharge.
Satisfaction : 7 / 10
This ability was very satisfying to use in the game. From the sound effect to the visual repair of the environment, it was a great experience. And there were clear benefits to having this mechanic within the game. I could notice the exact point at which I jumped too early or hit the wrong button; and then correct my actions on the fly. Since there was a lot more happening in a few seconds within this game compared to the racing ones, the rewind actually led to dynamic gameplay. Another thing I noticed was that because of the safety of rewind, I would make a more bold choices and jump into unknown places more often. The game actually had many hidden chambers and secrets so such actions were actually rewarded well.
On the whole, the rewind mechanic well-suited for this game and ties in well with the story. It also adds a depth to the combat which was one of the strongest features of this game. Also, at no point did it feel unbalanced and so I laud the designers for implementing it well.
Braid is another one of my favourites. If you haven't played this game, I would highly recommend you to do so today! It may initially feel like Mario with better graphics but that's where all comparisons end.
You can get a taste of it here (Warning: Spoilers!)
Effectiveness : 8 / 10
As I mentioned above, I thought of this game to be nothing but a Mario clone. However, when the gameplay evolved to make use of movement and time constraints, it added a completely new dimension to this game. The time mechanic was especially well done and I had never experienced something similar in a platformer. Plus, it did not ask the player to do anything different or press an extra button. The world simply reacted to you! Simple, yet effective!
Satisfaction : 9 / 10
The thing I liked the most about Braid was that it did not hold your hand or shove instructions down your throat. This is one feature I'm glad it borrowed from the era of Mario and it makes me sad that more games do not follow this principle. Anyway, this results in several satisfying discoveries for the you as a player throughout the game. The moment when you figure out the uniqueness of a level, the functioning of a mechanic, the strategy required to finally beat the level - all these things that lead up to the AHA! moment - it's just gratifying on so many levels. I was left with a similar feeling on discovering, playing through and eventually beating all the time based levels in Braid!