Time Runs Out

HIGH Brilliant voice acting.

LOW The setpieces.

WTF This platforming is so bad.

The Entropy Centre is a first-person puzzle adventure where time is manipulated in order to progress from one challenge to the next while trying to uncover the mystery around the titular locale.

The architecture on display oozes brutalism via bare concrete accented by glass and steel, but foliage has taken over this long-abandoned moon base, and the effects are impressive. There are also other areas such as beaches which provide a stunning dosage of color, promptly followed by melancholy once the sense of isolation sets in. The industrial areas, however, aren’t as impressive since they lack polish and refinement with bland design and lackluster textures, but more often than not, good art direction gives The Entropy Centre a visual identity that carries its weight.

In terms of gameplay, TEC’s puzzles are a real treat, especially earlier on when the experience is fresh. All its tasks are built around the premise that the player will reposition items inside each level in such a manner that rewinding time will open previously-restricted areas and allow the player to progress. New elements are steadily introduced throughout The Entropy Centre’s chapters including lasers, conveyor belts and bridges amongst other things, each one remixing the format to varying degrees. However, the novelty does wear off after the initial six to seven hours, because each chapter wrings the new elements dry by including too many puzzles per chapter that utilize the same element, and this compounds over time.

To make matters worse, the movement is problematic. There were multiple times when I accidentally fell from a spot and was required to use the ‘restart puzzle’ option, or worse, I’d fall prey to a hazard and die, resulting in sitting through a loading screen and having to listen to the same dialogue again — this frustration ate away at my patience. This is all made worse during scripted, linear segments that are time sensitive, often requiring multiple retries.

So the gameplay side of The Entropy Centre has issues, but what about the narrative? Ultimately it’s about an amnesiac operative trying to save the Earth from a mass extinction event by generating “Entropy Energy” via solving the puzzles, whilst also figuring out what happened to the long-abandoned moon base and her place in it.

The initial setup of the plot is superb thanks to the intrigue surrounding the Centre and the cataclysmic stakes. Both are well-established and the cast is endearing. However, after that strong introduction, the narrative becomes little more than background flavor text and the occasional dialogue exchange. None of it does much to move the plot forward, which is genuinely disheartening considering how strong the introduction was.

Overall, The Entropy Centre is a decent puzzle adventure that suffers from too much friction and an excessive runtime, and the individual issues are detrimental to the whole. A leaner package with fewer puzzles per chapter and more emphasis on the plot would have improved things – it’s a shame it’s not more compact and memorable experience.

Rating: 5 out of 10

— Fumo Chabalala

Disclosures: This game is developed by Stubby Games and published by Playstack. This copy of
the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBO. Approximately 14 hours of play
were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no
multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Fantasy Violence, Mild
Language, and Tobacco Reference.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game does not offer subtitles. The subtitles can be altered
and/ or resized. Audio cues are not relevant towards the gameplay. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: This game does not offer a controller map diagram, but movement is on the left stick. Camera is the right stick. Jumping is A. Y grabs items, RT rewinds, and B stops the rewind.

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