There are two things about No Time To Explain Season 2 that are worth pointing out before talking about how good it is. Firstly, it isn’t a proper sequel – this is the Kill Bill: Volume 2 of Newgrounds-styled indies, a conclusion to the incredibly silly time travel escapades that Season 1 called a ‘plot’. This doesn’t look like a cynical cash grab, though – dropping ten bucks for one chunk of game will net you the other for free. The second thing is that it is currently very much broken.
Three times I had to start over a world (these consist of about a half-dozen levels, though I admit I wasn’t counting) because moving too far to the edge of a boss arena while he’s attacking causes the entire game to crash. The roar of your laser cannon can get stuck playing back long after you’ve stopped firing it, which, to be fair, isn’t quite as bad as the laser itself continuing to fire after the left mouse button is depressed. Attempting to load any user-made levels just kills everything dead. Considering the original Time To Explain not only suffered its share of glitches, but was the subject of an fairly proactive postrelease bug-hunt by developers tinyBuild, it’s somewhat disheartening to see this many technical issues in the followup.
When it works, however, Season 2 is immensely fun. Fundamentally, not much has changed – you’re still whizzing around colourful environments, avoiding spikes and collecting hats for giggles. The biggest change is that you won’t always be using the propelling force of laser beams to do so. Ditching the running joke of having to chase down and rescue your captured future-self from the clutches of a giant crab or flying shark, NTTE is free to augment its laser-assisted platforming with a bunch of new tricks. Thus, every world has a unique mechanic – for instance, munching on cakes in a candy-themed stage instantly turns you morbidly obese, letting you roll down hills to build enough momentum to smash through barriers and ramp over huge gaps. Upon being shrunk, sent back in time and inserted into the body of – wait for it – YOU, pools of stomach acid provide incendiary boosts to jumps and glides – provided you don’t melt too quickly.
Each bizarre twist in location or ability is introduced with a cartoon cutscene – rarities in the original, now occurring every twenty minutes or so. They’re genuinely funny even as they become more and more tangential, showing off a keen sense of irony with splashes of self-deprecation that steer the game’s humour safely away from the ‘LOL, RANDOM’ direction it might appear to be heading in. There’s one set of levels which stick a semi-affectionate boot into everything from One Chance to Occupy Wall Street, whilst employing a neat painting aspect to the game’s trademark futuregun; this is definitely something which values the player having a good time over having anything of vast intellectual importance to say or a touching story to tell (which, I suspect, will turn a lot of people off). That’s fine, really. This is weirdness by design – the only thing being phoned in is the QA.
Wisely, tinyBuild have opted to make things a little harder this time around. Only one boss fight commits the original’s peculiar fault of making it nearly impossible to die and start over, so the rare occasions when the laser rifle becomes an actual weapon rather than an improvised jetpack finally have something at stake. Plus, even though the new jumping powers require a couple of easy learning levels, each world crescendos beautifully into sumptuously challenging climactic stages that require no small amount of timing, agility and grace.
I’m extremely pleased to see this little project, which began as a Flash game before taking to Kickstarter in search of funding, blossom into a double shot of clever and accomplished 2D platforming – which is why it pains me to tell you, once again, not to buy it in this state. Hang back until Season 2 is patched, as 1 was, because playing right this second carries too high a risk of dreadful glitches sullying an otherwise excellent experience. The price is more than fair for both Seasons, though, so keep an eye out for newer versions. It’ll be worth the wait.