I’d stop short of calling Time Stall a puzzle game. True, there’s a certain degree of brain teasing in each of its eight levels, but the solution is almost always to push incoming projectiles out of the way. And with that, I officially coin the term ‘pushing game’.
There’s a lot to like in this brief interstellar tale of catastrophe, even if relatively little of it is concerned with the main objectives. Set aboard a crowdfunded space cruise ship, you slow time in order to save your robotic captain and crewmates whenever disaster strikes. At one point in the kitchen, for example, a defective robot throws himself at your lovably naive leader, while in another he risks being sucked out of space.
You can see why developer Force Field is so eager to push the, well, pushing; Time Stall’s physics are a delight to tinker with. As time slows, falling objects slow to a crawl and you’re free to simply pluck them out of the air. You’ll often be able to use this mechanic in multiple ways to achieve your objective. In the first level, for example, I created a line of cardboard boxes to push some falling debris out of the way. When I replayed the same level I realized I could also just throw other objects in hopes of them colliding.
It’s definitely refreshing to see a game that gives you so much creative freedom in how you go about beating it. I was even able pull off some technically complex feats like hooking the arm of a chair with the end of a golf club and then pulling it around.
Sadly, fascinating interactions such as these are rarely necessary. Most of Time Stall’s incoming threats are dismissed using a well-placed gas canister or popping the cork on a champagne bottle to send it flying. It’s an amusing gimmick in the first level with depreciating returns in each successive mission. There are additional challenges to try and keep things inventive (and bump up the otherwise sub-hour runtime) but the core level design rarely lives up to the strength of its technical foundations.
And yet, Time Stall remains pleasingly likable throughout, mostly down to Force Field’s extra touches. Between levels you’ll travel back to the ship’s bridge, which features a host of highly interactive easter eggs. Be it blasting away space bugs with ray guns or ordering pizza with satisfying slop to it, there’s always something engaging to see and do.
Time Stall had me falling in love with its zany world of mishaps but left me wishing Force Field had made more of it. It’s richly detailed with thoughtful interactions and world-building but fails to capitalize on the intricacies of its slow-motion gameplay. The foundations are here for a truly compelling VR puzzle game. Unfortunately, Force Field needed a little more time.
Time Stall launches on August 15th on Oculus Quest for $14.99. For more on how we arrived at this score, read our review guidelines.