Timelapse Preview

GTE offers up a title that sends players to the fall of civilization - over and over again

Touted by its developers as the next level of Myst-genre games (I didn't even know that was a genre),Timelapse sends the player searching for a missing archeologist who has plunged through a gateway in time, pursuing the interrelated secrets of the great ancient civilizations: Egypt, the Mayan Empire, the Anasazi, Easter Island…even myth-shrouded Atlantis. Initially equipped with nothing more than the missing professor's notebook, players must make their way through each of the bygone realms (presented not as crumbling ruins but as they were at the height of their respective reigns), recording relevant data with an instant camera and - surprise - solving puzzles.

This is an extremely high-res, first-person adventure game utilizing the same kind of still-frame navigation found in titles such as Myst and Welcome to the Future, albeit with the occasional animated animal or effect to provide the player subtle and not-so-subtle clues. Rather than the expected dark, indoor locales, Timelapse offers bright, full screen, ray-traced environments complete with outdoor light, shadows and true reflectivity. If nothing else, the game promises to be really, really pretty.

The conceptual hook here is that each of the historic realms is presented just before it met its demise; the one realm which the player does not initially have access to, nor sufficient information on, is Atlantis. (The truly astute gamer will already see where this is going.) In the contemplative spirit of Myst-genre games - good God, now I'm saying it too - it's not really possible to really die, but giant cobra snakes and other baddies will block the player's progress from region to region until the puzzles indigenous to that culture have been conquered. This isn't something I like to write, but at this point it's difficult to say much more: The still-frame-navigation school of adventure/puzzle games has been at the party for what seems like a very long time now, it wasn't that exciting a guest to begin with (snappy dresser, though), and it's starting to slide under the table. Add to that the fact that the "secrets of the ages" motif has been leaned on especially heavily lately. Only the release date (October 1996) will tell if the carefully researched, non-violent, and generally reserved Timelapse will turn heads or merely overshoot them.

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