Have you ever had the craving to play a co-op game only to realize that you’re home alone? Well, Cyberwave’s Hourglass provides a neat solution to your problem. This ghost producing, time rewinding, puzzle game brings all the fun of co-op without the hassle of finding a partner.
Hourglass has an interesting Egyptian-esque setting
The gameplay is truly what sets Hourglass apart from others in its genre. The mechanic is the ability to create a ghost that will run through a short loop of your creation. Think of these ghosts as bring similar to the ghosts in Mario Kart time trials. After you create your ghost, and while it’s running through its loop, you work alongside it to solve the puzzle.
This mechanic creates a fun sense of “co-oping with yourself” and, because the loops are finite, it leads to exhilarating races to beat out the clock. As the game goes on, the player unlocks more skills and the game does an excellent job of teaching how to use each new skill without necessitating tutorials, menus, or even words!
Before I begin my next paragraph, I want to make it clear: the “time-loop ghost” power is incredibly unique and leads to some seriously fun puzzle solving. If you can get this game on sale, it’s definitely worth picking up and checking out.
Hourglass uses color to denote when you’re in ghost form
The problem with Hourglass comes in the game’s second half. You must move quickly because the ghosts operate in a short time loop. It can be exhilarating running from button to button, platform to platform, and picking up/putting down boxes. However, the controls are not tight enough to make this feel satisfying.
The game forced me to redo loops multiple times. I would try to interact with a button/box, but the game wouldn’t let me. Sometimes because I was too far or, in the more frustrating scenarios, because I was too close. I often found myself watching the seconds tick away as I shuffled forward and backwards numerous times to try to stand in the VERY specific spot that the game wanted from me. The aggravation from this was compounded by the fact that, after missing the button press/box pickup, I would have to recreate the entire loop and then watch it play through the whole thing again. It made me feel like I was wasting my time.
This is what your ghost looks like in action
The control problems get infinitely worse in the last dungeon where [***very light spoilers ahead***] you’re given the ability to teleport. Because of the physics of how the teleporters work, you have to enter them very slowly. Several times, I entered a teleport too quickly and the momentum threw me off the edge of the platform on the other end causing me to plummet to my death. In a game where you’re told to race, being forced to stop and creep (just to come out on the other end of a teleporter and not be able to pick up a box because you’re standing too close to it??) was painful.
These gameplay hiccups led me to experience my least favorite feeling in puzzle games: The feeling of having figured out the solution to a puzzle, but being forced to walk through the whole puzzle many times just because the controls have me handcuffed.
There isn’t very much story to speak of in Hourglass. At the beginning of the game, we find out through a radio transmission that the main character’s dad is missing. The protagonist spends the rest of the game going on an expedition to find their dad. The player finds dad after spending a few hours solving puzzles. He then just…sits…and watches… while the protagonist solves the last few puzzles to get them both to safety.
If you’re into this sort of expedition/lost family member setting and enjoy solving puzzles to save your loved one, I would direct you to a game that came out a year before Hourglass called Call of the Sea.
The Switch struggles running triple A games, but Hourglass is far from that and still has problems with processing. The aesthetic of Hourglass is a pleasant, simple rendition of a fictional Egypt. The environment really works and does a good job of rewarding players for exploring. However, the pop-in and stuttering could break the immersion for some players.
Thank you so much to Secret Item Games for our review code! Please visit the Nintendo eShop here to purchase the game.