Much like Ring: Legend of the Nibelungen, The New Adventures of the Time Machine is another adventure game sequel to a classic work. In this case, the classic work is H.G. Wells' novel, The Time Machine. And, much like Ring, the game has very few redeeming qualities - it's a nonsensical story periodically interrupted by a string of infuriating puzzles.
The title should be a warning. Can a time machine have adventures? And even if it could, would they really be "new" to an object for which linear time is meaningless? Unfortunately, the premise of the game makes even less sense than its moniker. You assume the role of H.G. Wells himself, who takes a trip in his time machine. How this machine has gone from being a subject in one of his novels to a real-life device is never explained. Wells lands in the year 800,000, where the natives have magical powers. They also worship an hourglass and speak the Queen's English perfectly. The only major change in the language is in Wells' name, which inexplicably becomes "Wales" once he arrives in the new time.
Even if you choose to ignore the language issue or the hero's mysterious name change, there are still several problems in the game from the outset. Among the most curious is how Wales was able to build a time machine to begin with. One would assume some complex math and physics was involved, but the hero apparently can't even do simple arithmetic. After traveling from 1839 to 800,000, he exclaims "I'm stuck more than 800,000 years from my era!" Uh, no, he isn't.
You'd imagine that the year 800,000 is a very wondrous place. But it looks a great deal like the year 800. Wales lands in a small desert community with no technology to speak of, save for its fancy guns. The community is actually so uninteresting that he immediately starts looking for a way home, which will be difficult because his machine disappears without a trace upon arrival. "I need to get back to my world," he says over and over again. Luckily, no one's around to point out that this is, in fact, his world. What's even luckier is the fact that he's one of the chosen few who's been gifted with magical powers. He learns spells from the priests of the city, and the head priest tells him to be virtuous. He then goes out and steals stuff and kills someone to solve the game's first puzzles.
Like many Cryo games, Time Machine suffers from obtuseness. Characters throw nonsensical philosophy at you like confetti, but there are never any dialogue options to further inquire about what is being said. And the puzzles suffer from this problem as well - one character asks Wales to find something for his back pain, and tells Wales that it's a common ointment. But the lack of dialogue options makes asking anyone about it impossible.
In exchange for the ointment, this character gives Wales a missing holy relic that is required to find the way to the next location. This would seem ridiculous, if it weren't explained by another nonsensical plot point: At random times, a large wave sweeps the city, erases everyone's memory, and changes everyone's age. Unfortunately, this has little impact on the gameplay.
The puzzles go on and on like this: You'll encounter sound puzzles, maze puzzles, and even a few action sequences. The action sequences are made possible by the fact that, unlike most Cryo games, The New Adventures of the Time Machine isn't a first-person adventure. Instead, the game's third-person perspective is more reminiscent of Alone in the Dark or Grim Fandango.
This new perspective brings its own host of problems. The camera changes angles frequently - at times, the ever-moving camera can even be somewhat nauseating - and the camera over-employs a sort of fly-by effect in which Wales runs under the viewpoint while the camera tracks his movements. The action sequences are frustrating, because the keyboard control is somewhat unresponsive. But what's most frustrating is the intense slowing down that occurs after you've been playing for a while. The game can slow to a crawl, which makes quitting and restarting your only option.
Time Machine does have one thing going for it: The backgrounds are nicely rendered. The 3D models are a bit blocky, but the backgrounds look great.
Unfortunately, pretty pictures can't make up for the sheer number of frustrating elements in the game in addition to the problems with the story, the puzzles, and the control. For instance, you lose health when you save your game. Crucial cutscenes won't cue properly, which makes progress impossible. The list of complaints goes on and on.
Basing adventure games on classic works is not a bad idea - Alice in Wonderland, Ulysses and the Golden Fleece, and Below the Root are just a few examples of older games that used their source material well. But The New Adventures of the Time Machine falls into another category, along with Cryo's Ring and Byron Preiss Multimedia's The Martian Chronicles. They are bad games inspired by great works of art.