Time Ducks review
A touchscreen-controlled fusion of Frogger, Flight Control and Braid, Time Ducks is the kind of boardroom pitch that would likely open investors' chequebooks long before they were able to visualise what had just been sold to them. While the Braid allusion – the developer's own – might be a stretch, Frogger and Flight Control's mechanics are more useful in understanding Tough Guy Studios' warmly funny game.
You must help various animals cross to the other side of a busy road to their respective homes – ducks to the pond or foxes to the bins, for instance – by drawing a path through the slow moving traffic with your finger. If an impact is imminent, a quick swipe to the left will reverse time, leaving an animal in place but sending cars into reverse until your meter runs empty. A swipe to the right, meanwhile, speeds everything along.
Stringing animals of the same kind together, or in ascending value order (ducks are worth five points, rabbits ten, llamas 15 etc), creates a combo and adds to your multiplier, while maintaining it often means plotting an especially long route for an animal to keep it in play until the species you need turns up. Aside from becoming road kill, the only other danger awaiting wayward creatures are the dogs that occasionally spawn and patrol the verges. A simple tap dispatches them quickly enough, but they fulfil a higher purpose as wildcards in the combo system, too.
Further convolution arrives in the form of tier one and two animals, unlocked by achieving three-of-a-kind combos. That lowly duck, for example, is followed by a rooster and then a penguin, opening up new and higher-scoring combinations. While its many elements give the illusion of depth, in truth you'll see most of what Time Ducks has to offer in a few sessions. Even so, the highscore table and note-perfect humour (which, just like the pixel-art graphics and whimsical audio, strikes the perfect balance between faux-naivety and self-awareness) proves more than enough to keep you playing in the traffic.