Anything that Blades of Time does well, another game has done before and better. Not that the game does a lot of things well: aside from decent visuals, a story that occasionally piques your interest and some mildly rewarding combat and time-bending mechanics, there aren’t any positives to be found. There are some almighty negatives present though, not least in the ultimately experience-ruining voice acting that kills off any chance of immersion.
I’d love to say that you shouldn’t play Blades of Time because any of the aforementioned positives are but mere reflections of other games; instead I’m looking to ward off anyone who thinks they can finish the game and use the good things to in any way justify the time wasted.
Blades of Time’s protagonist – a sassy young treasure hunter named Ayumi – frolics around a mythical cursed island no longer in search of loot, instead answers to her dilemma and a way out. Looking to ultimately defy the lords of the land and escape, Ayumi finds herself more than just a part of the bigger picture. Hacking and slashing her way through hordes of possessed enemies she receives a whole roster of magical powers, including the ability to rewind time. In rewinding time, Ayumi’s former self follows through with the actions you did just before: you can use this ability to create multiple versions of yourself to solve conveniently designed puzzles that accommodate the use of this.
This ability has to often be used in combat scenarios also as certain enemies are virtually unbeatable without its use. Some enemies have bubble shields which require multiple versions of Ayumi firing bullets en masse to destroy them; other larger foes need distracting so Ayumi can attack without reply and whittle down their substantial health. A lack of a block function or countering outside of a single shielded enemy type means she’s almost certainly going to take damage as she gets up close and personal to deal damage. Ayumi’s powers outside of time rewind range from wielding fire to freezing foes which can – when upgraded via praying altars that first offer you these powers – deal with numerous enemies in one go who can otherwise overwhelm. Enemies attack from both ground and air so time rewinding is vital to give her time to deal with attacks from different heights and directions.
The combat as mentioned before is only mildly engaging, reminiscent of God of War but never at the same level. The button mashing becomes a highly monotonous activity soon after starting, with only the introductions to new enemy types very briefly spicing things up. The larger the enemy the better the combat experience but like all enemies faced, routines are developed to deal with types in a necessarily specific way. The somewhat unique time rewind ability that accompanies many of these fights becomes a stale mechanic sadly (though rare instances fighting behemoth Skyguards in semi-boss scenarios are intense enough to remain interesting) and even the occasional appearance of an unbeatable enemy that introduces a faint element of stealth rapidly loses its initial appeal.
Furthermore, Blades of Time is prone to highly infuriating difficulty spikes which impede progress severely regardless of how strict you follow your routines to deal with different enemies or how perfect your timing is. Luck led me to progress through these obtrusive spikes; the necessity to play through the game for review purposes led me to persevere after numerous failed attempts to continue.
Making matters worse is what destroys any hope of looking past the imperfections: Ayumi’s unrelenting running dialogue is nothing short of horrendous. The voice acting is some of the worst I’ve experienced in videogames – on a par at times with this – which as a consequence means fleeting moments of enjoyment are stripped away from you by incessantly diabolical script reading. The script itself is similarly dire, the wrong tone often taken with dialogue continually feeling out-of-place and unnecessary.
Start to finish Ayumi is a frustrating presence: animated as some sort of quasi-anime Japanese girl, she gallivants about spouting meaningless observations in a jarring, thoroughly English accent. Her characterisation is perhaps the thing I would criticise the game for most: protagonist she may be but she knows no remorse, is scripted in a fashion that presents her as a naive yet simultaneously feisty warrior and is perfectly comfortable attacking waves of fearsome foes while shouting out colloquial expressions in a tone and manner more befitting a teenage girl at a boy band concert.
Blades of Time is tarnished by inanity and poor design. Ayumi is a terrible protagonist roaming a dangerous world like a feisty prom queen tourist, ponytails flailing around while she waxes lyrical about observations and her emotions in a giddy fashion that offensively undermines the serious tone the story tries to convey. Simplistic puzzles are noticeably designed for your needs, the powers acquired are fun for the first minute and the difficulty balancing is such that rage-quitting is something of an inevitability.
Blades of Time is fatally sub-par. Any rare nuggets of good that can be derived from this cesspool of awful are not of enough redeeming value to be the necessary saving graces this game so desperately needs.