Originally released in 2011 as a browser game on Newgrounds, No Time To Explain on Xbox One doesn't really add a whole lot of "new" aside from a smoother visual presentation and soundtrack. The cold hard truth though is that No Time To Explain wasn't a great game back then, and all of the problems associated with it are still plentiful here. Developer tinyBuild Games have done a fine job in remastering it so it doesn't look nearly as dated, but it would have been nice to see them go back to the drawing board on this one.
No Time To Explain is actually quite easy to explain. You play as an unnamed and innocent boy who is visited and warned one day by his future self about upcoming dangers before he is captured and whisked about by a giant crab. Okay…so maybe it isn't so easy to explain, but watching this totally zany and preposterous story unfold is kind of fun. It's all intentional of course and part of its charm is seeing just how ridiculous things can get. But while No Time To Explain revels in its own silliness, its gameplay is painstakingly and unapologetically harsh. Brutally hard games seem to be making a comeback these days, but even games like Dark Souls allow a sense of satisfaction as you slowly begin to understand its systems. Not here though, as much of the gameplay in No Time To Explain revolves around an unhealthy amount of trial-and-error.
With a new control layout built around a gamepad, gamers should have no problem whatsoever getting acquainted with No Time To Explain. Your character comes packed with a unique weapon that shoots a blue beam in whatever direction you push the right-hand stick. Doing so also propels your character in the opposite direction. So, if you're having trouble trying to reach a higher platform your normal jump can't make, you can jump and then fire your beam below you, which will launch you appropriately in the air. At the beginning, it's fun messing around with the beam and finding all the fun ways you can use it, and there's definitely a bit of a learning curve here, as the developers didn't feel the need to add a tutorial. You're left to your own devices to figure out how best to utilize the beam and how it interacts in a physics-based environment. After a while, the mechanics generally feel pretty good but we'd be lying if we told you that by the end of the five hour campaign we were jetpack beam experts. Often times, it was mostly sheer luck rather than skill that placed us at the end level portal.
There was a recurring cycle every time we picked up No Time To Explain. We would manage to get through a few stages (with our patience still intact) before hitting a frustratingly impossible one. After numerous attempts, that patience grew thin until finally, we would give up and turn off the game for the night. We'd give it another go the next day and, to our bewilderment, complete the difficult area in one fell swoop. There doesn't appear to be a concrete system in place in which a player can gradually master the mechanics. Want some unhelpful advice? Try, try, and try again. Don't worry; eventually, one of your attempts will be successful.
Even though you'll be on the cusp of wanting to throw your console out the window after attempting the same darned area a hundred times over, at least No Time To Explain has a forgiving checkpoint system. It's a relief knowing that with every poorly-aligned jump or accidental fall, your character simply respawns on the last platform you touched. This does allow for some experimentation to happen when it's not immediately apparent what needs to be done or even if you're trying to go for those blasted collectable hats peppered throughout each stage. What's less forgiving is how the user-friendly checkpoint system disappears the moment you enter a boss battle, replaced insteadby a life bar system. The problem is that the boss encounters are very much a one-hit kill affair, and they are undoubtedly the most frustrating parts of the entire game. The last boss in particular is a hair-pulling catastrophe in which, once again, the whole encounter falls back on the games' trope of sheer dumb luck.
It isn't all bad news though. No Time To Explain does an acceptable job in giving each chapter a distinct feel, style, and new weapon to tinker around with. For instance, in one of the game's more entertaining segments, you'll play with a canon that can rocket your gridiron-wearing clone to impossible lengths. It operates very differently from the jet-beam and forces you to use other tactics to complete your task. Another chapter drops you into a white, blank abyss in which the platforms can only be seen by using a weapon that spews black paint, à la The Unfinished Swan. You'll dive into an 8-bit style world that argues in favour of games being art (yep, it goes there!) and isn't afraid to break the fourth wall, and another where you jump around as a gross, alien offspring. If there's one thing No Time To Explain has going for it, it's the way it manages to top itself with over-the-top scenarios. It's almost good enough to ignore its shortcomings. Almost.
In the end, it's hard to recommend No Time To Explain. While its cutesy visuals and ridiculous plot are infectious from the offset, the punishing and unfair repetition of its gameplay will leave many players hard-pressed to find any enjoyment out of it. There's definitely been a rise in demand for difficult games out there, and No Time To Explain may scratch that itch for some, but it ultimately falls short due to inconsistent game design. There are moments of brilliance in a few chapters, but developer tinyBuild Games doesn't spend hardly enough time fleshing them out. A downright shame too because if they did, No Time To Explain could've turned into something worth talking about.