Professor Potts has a little problemette. While he was working on his time machine terrorists attack, smashing his temporal moped and whisking him down the time lanes into prehistory, to a time so long ago he'd have to wait 10 million years just for Racquel Welch to get her fur bikini out.
Luckily, he'd tucked five teleporters and a stun gun in his pocket before the attack, with which me must find his way back to the present. The solution is not so much revolutionary as evolutionary: by guiding the lifeforms he encounters, he can open the right time corridor and get himself home before he left!
The five zones include 1 million years BC, when the dinosaurs ruled the earth, the Ice Age and the Middle Ages. In each he must alter the status quo so that evolution takes its course. Successful completion opens up a time lane forward to the next stage.
Each task involves giving mother nature a nudge in the right direction. In the prehistoric zone the job is to ensure mankind actually happens in the first place, while the resultant cavemen need a little advice on the tech spec of the wheel. To lend a hand the Prof has to teleport and then move objects into new places so the inhabitants get the idea.
Move the right ones and the zone indicator flashes from red to green. What's more, when the majority of the current level has been correctly altered the next age is accessible.
The central paradox of Time Machine stems from the fact that even when something's fixed, it's not. At any time it can revert to the old state, which threatens any future dependent on this earlier time for existence. Using an on-screen zone indicator Prof Potts has a view of all the 25 areas he controls. If something goes awry he has to leap time and fix it. A more of the future opens up to Potts, like a plate spinner, he must try to keep the earlier ones safe.
The professor has three lives and little energy. His life force is sapped by standing in puddles of ice water or being blatted by a volcanic fire and is refreshing by eating any fresh fruit he finds. The only time limit is that of time itself. Confused? You will be.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Time Machine is a cartoon adventure packed with cute creatures, caricature people and comic historical backgrounds. The godlike Prof moves in a slightly mysterious way and takes some joystick practice to control, but does everything required with a quick waggle. The limit of only five screens per time zone is no drawback, because you see it five times over the millennia. The 25-screen indicator makes every zone easily monitored, if not controlled. The tune's a cute overture that demands shutdown after a few minutes, or changing to the effects option at the first opportunity.
The puzzles which free up each respective temporal zone are reasonably obvious, but it's the changing and keeping them that way which is really hard. It's all too common to be virtually home and have a hundred thousand years of hard toil spoiled in seconds. It's a chronological balancing act and that challenge remains, regardless of previous success. A real hair-tearer, Time Machine is relatively finishable in theory, but we all know what a complex theory relativity is.
Time Machine is not a big game but a clever one, packed with playability and originality. It will have you chasing over hill and dale madly plugging holes in the temporal stream, but there's actually too much time to cover and not enough Professors. It gets under the skin by appearing feasible, even easy, then proving to be exactly the opposite. Nothing, not even the most advanced technology, staves off the ravages of time,