Review by Al Giovetti, 10/20/96
Price: $47 - $55
Genre: a graphic animated adventure
Release: October 15, 1996
Developer: GTE Entertainment
Producer: Lori Nichols
Associate Producer: Salvatore Parascandolo
Publisher: GTE Entertainment
Phone: 619-431-3580
Website: www.im.gte.com
Requirements: PC, Windows 3.1 or 95 (Windows 95 recommended), 486DX2, 66 MHz (Pentium recommended), 8 MB RAM (16 MB RAM recommended), SVGA color monitor (640 x 480) with 256 colors, 2X CD-ROM drive (4X recommended), 100% Windows-compatible sound card, External speakers, Mouse and keyboard. Macintosh: Color Macintosh capable of displaying 256 colors, System 7.1, 68040 processor (Power Macintosh recommended), 8 MB RAM (16 MB RAM recommended), 2X CD-ROM drive or faster (quad-speed recommended), Mouse and keyboard

Company line:

Plot: Discover an alien race, explore ancient civilizations, and shatter the theories of modern science. Subtle yet prominent similarities in architecture, astronomy, language, mathematics, and traits of other advanced cultures have led him to conclude that there must be a link between the lost civilizations of the ancient Egyptians, Maya, Anasazi, Easter Island, and the mythical city of Atlantis. His life's work has been dedicated to finding this link. Professor Nichols is convinced Atlantis existed -much to the dismay of the University where he is a full-tenure faculty member in the Archaeology department. If he can discover the fabled lost city, he'll find the evidence that will vindicate his theories and stop the endless ridicule he has endured from his colleagues in the academic community.

At a remote dig site on Easter Island the professor befriends an old native shaman. With his help, the professor deciphers a set of wooden rongo rongo boards and other strange but similar markings found on various artifacts from other civilizations. Before dying, the shaman directs the professor to an ancient family burial cave. Inside the cave he discovers an alien device. This is perhaps the greatest archaeological discovery of all time - a time gate. In it, he sees images of past worlds, brilliant scenes, flowing by like clouds. Finally, the professor has found the link he has been searching for his entire life. Excited at his find, he sends off an urgent communiqué asking you to come at once to Easter Island. However, the professor cannot contain his excitement and decides to go through the time gate ahead of you, armed only with his journal and an instant camera to take photos.

After going through the time gate, the professor realizes that for some peculiar reason the portal is preset to travel to the Egyptian, Mayan, and Anasazi civilizations at a pivotal time in their histories - the time their cultures vanished. Atlantis, however, is mysteriously inaccessible. One by one the professor visits each ancient civilization documenting his astonishing travels and discoveries in his journal. However, while exploring each civilization, the professor soon senses he is not alone. There is a presence watching him, yet he cannot explain what it is.

When the archaeologist reaches Atlantis he discovers that the sunken section of the city where he has landed, is the outpost ship itself.

A cataclysm, the legendary sinking of Atlantis, took place, interrupting the final mission, and forcing the few living occupants to go into hibernation waiting for the turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere to subside.

A maintenance robot had been programmed to launch the ship when conditions were appropriate, but during a repair operation, the robot was damaged by an electrical discharge, and its original programming was altered. The ship should have been launched centuries ago, but there it remains, still maintained by the guardian.

The guardian robot's damaged artificial intelligence has been twisted a bit over the millennia, and now he has assumed a feeling of ownership of the Atlantean technology, and is indeed guarding it, but fears that if it launches the outpost ship, he himself will be deactivated upon reaching the home world.

The archaeologist reached Atlantis and meant to collect the genetic technologies and leave, but he was intercepted by the guardian and literally jailed in a time gate left at half-transport. This is where you, the player, meet him, and how he is able to periodically contact you.

Video kiosks on Atlatis inform the professor that the Atlanteans are an offspring of a peaceful and noble alien race whose home world is light years away in the Andromeda Galaxy. Thousands of years ago an enormous colony vessel visited Earth. An outpost ship detached from the mother ship and landed on an unpopulated island continent. What came to be known as Atlantis, grew slowly around the outpost ship and was populated over time by a great hybrid race. The Atlanteans explored and traveled Earth through space and time by constructing timegates. During these explorations they discovered several promising civilizations at their fledgling states and built timegates to each of them including: Egypt, Mayan, Anasazi, and Easter Island. To further these civilizations, the Atlanteans offered the gift of genetic enlightenment to the most advanced and high born in each world: the pharaohs, shamans, priests, and tribal leaders.

Over generations this enlightenment manifested itself in the form of great intellect and prowess in areas such as architecture, astronomy, writing, mathematics, and science. The Atlanteans also visited the leaders of these cultures at various times and assisted them with immense undertakings such as the construction of the great pyramids of Giza and the transport of huge Easter Island moai statues. On occasion some of the Atlanteans' great feats would be witnessed by large crowds generating countless myths and folklore for each culture that have survived to this day.

To protect this gift of enlightenment, the Atlanteans placed the refined genetic material into special pods adorned with native artwork, securing and distributing them across three worlds (Egypt, Mayan, and Anasazi). As each culture matured, the Atlanteans offered the opportunity to emigrate to the alien home world and advance to a higher plane of existence. Many civilizations, such as the Anasazi, chose to go and were taken through the timegates to Atlantis for transport to the orbiting mother ship.

Others did not choose to go and remained behind on Earth. Due to the unpredictable nature of humans, even with the positive genetic influence of the Atlanteans, some cultures ultimately never flourished. Easter Island eventually resorted to cannibalism and the Mayans inherent warlike ways never changed, resulting in the inevitable downfall of the civilization. The Atlantean outpost ship remained on Earth with a minimal support crew to continue its research after the orbiting colony ship begun its long journey home.

Gameplay: With the help of a notebook, camera (with only 36 exposures), and puzzle solving you will move through realms at the height of their development in Easter Island, Mayan, Egypltian, Anasazi and finally Atlantis. The player can visit the worlds in any order, but to visit Atlantis, all three of the other worlds must have been visited, and the player must have collected a key artifact from each world.

You have an inventory but you can only hold one artifact in it at a time, which is only used or useful very close to where you found it. This eliminates all the traveling around and back over parts of the game to collect overlooked or previously inaccessable artifacts to complete an artifact based puzzle challenge seen in most games of this type. You do not have to go around collecting a plethora of junk to progress in this game.

Puzzles center around decipering the relation ship between clues carved in stone, scrawled on an ancient parchment, or carved into a statue. Once you have solved the written or graphic puzzle you need to figure out how to manipulate something in the game background environment to progress to the next phase.

It is impossible to die in the early parts of the game. The player cannot die in Egypt, Anasazi or Mayan worlds, but in Atlantis, the player can end up in a multitude of life/death and limbo scenarios. In this Atlantis, many human skills and qualities come to play. Even though it's possible to die, this is not a Die or Win game. Its multiple outcomes include:
- The worst case, where the player causes the death of the archaeologist, and the destruction of Atlantis and himself.
- The player gets imprisoned in the time gate, just as the archaeologist did.
- The player places himself in suspended animation, but is trapped in Atlantis under the watchful eye of the guardian.
- The player defeats the guardian, rescues the archaeologist, but is trapped in the sunken Atlantis unable to leave.
- The player rescues the archaeologist, launches the outpost ship and remains on board for a rather lengthy trip to the home world.
- The player rescues the archaeologist, launches the ship, and escapes in a module that contains high-tech instructions for harnessing natural energies... ending up with a Nobel prize.

Like in Ron Gilbert’s The Secret of Monkey Island, it is not a bad thing to not have the ability to die. Killing the main character is a form of cop out, which requires the game player to start over substituting death for game play is always a misstake.

The player's mission is multifaceted, and the outcome will vary depending on the player's skill, reasoning, gullibility, and sense of values. No one ending is necessarily a victory or loss. Each has its own measure of successes, failures, rewards, surprises, and long-tern consequences.

The interactivity includes navigation through the world using arrow keys or mouse, going forward, backward, left, right, and in appropriate cases looking or going up,or down. The interactivity also includes manipulating objects such as working controls, shooting a bow, lighting a lamp with a match using all its knobs and gadgets, picking up objects and carrying them to the place where they are used, etcetera. The intractivity with characters is limited to one way speech. The player cannot have a discussion with a character. In Atlantis the player even gets to shoot it out with the guardian.

Combat does not a game make. With all do deference to Doom and Quake, which made a lot of money, but did little to advance gaming, combat is not interactivity. Where combat is substituted for conversations with characters where there is give and take, trade with characters, puzzles to be solved, and other forms of interactivity that can result in changes to plot direction and tone, combat is worse than a poor substitute. Combat is the death of play and interplay when it becomes the main goal of the gameplay.

According to Salvatore Parascandolo, the associate producer of the game, "the plot, when not completely revealed may appear weak, but when all the key points are known, every element ties in perfectly, with compelling motivations behind each turn of events, from the Alien homeworld disaster to the mission of their Terran outpost, to their genetic enhacement of selected cultures, to the sinking of Atlantis, the damaged guardian, and the unlaunched ship. If the player pays heed to the historical and technical information presented, the right choices can be made. This is where the plot ties in strongly with the various outcomes. To supplement the revelation the plot, the game journal isn't just a mixture of obscurity and hints. It contains a collage of from actual archeological research, items of interest, plus the fictional archaeologist's own speculations and conclusions which furnish new explanations and motivations for known historical events, so that the game's backstory is seamlessly woven into recorded history."

Puzzles: Similarly, the more than 50 challenging puzzles found in these worlds are native to each culture and seamlessly integrated into the environment. Using hieroglyphics, stelaé and other indigenous clues, players push the limits of their reasoning and logic as they make their way to Atlantis, their final destination. Depending on what players do in Atlantis, there are several different outcomes to the game which can be experienced.

Interface: Salvatore also filled us in on his interface theories, "The interface is largely interfaceless. We strived to fill the screen with nothing but the world itself. There is no gimmicky little window to look through with dozens of knobs and switches. This was meant to be a high quality graphical experience.

Part of the interface is in the form of audio. There are puzzles that involve recognizing and making use of audio clues, sometimes at various separate locations. The Anasazi world specifically includes such challenges. When the player is using the mouse, the cursor takes on various forms to indicate allowable directions, or whether an object can be clicked, collected or otherwise manipulated. When the cursor becomes a target over a specific distant spot, it indicates that the player can instantly navigate to that spot in one click. When the player is using the arrow keys, a small arrow-array at the lower left of the screen indicates the navigable directions.

The player can touch the spacebar to open an interface screen that contains buttons to reach the camera, journal, photo album, and artifact collection. There are also customization controls for volume, and even for color balancing the monitor. Any of the functions on the interface screen such as the camera, journal, save and open saved game can be activated without the interface screen by using hot keys. The game can be saved in any state at any time, and there is no limit to the number of saved games."

Artificial intelligence: Salvatore shared his thoughts in this area also, "The game uses a mixture of random and modified random events on which to base its decisions. At times the randomness comes across as artificial intelligence, and at other times special programming may appear as random events.

Graphics: High-resolution, first-person adventure game with still frame navigation seen in Myst and Welcome to the future. Bright, full screen, ray-traced graphics, complete with outdoor light, shadows, and true reflectivity are beautiful. Ray tracing realistically shades objects based upon their location in relation to light sources. The game world looks very real with the light and texture effects usually limited to the real world.

Over two years in the making, TIMELAPSE combines movie-quality special effects with stunning, full-screen (640x480) 3-D photo-realistic, fully rendered graphics to immerse players in the recreated environments of some of Earth’s most intriguing and mysterious lost civilizations. Through the use of ray-traced graphics, water and other outdoor images are accurately brought to life, complete with true shadows and reflectivity. Rather than limiting gameplay to dark, indoor environments, TIMELAPSE graphics fill the entire screen with bright, full-color images of the Yucatan Peninsula, the banks of the Nile, the ancient cliff dwellings of Colorado and the sunken undersea world of Atlantis. This title is one of the first games to use full-screen, ray-traced graphics of this outstanding quality. Other special product features include 360-degree panoramic turns, as well as over 500 animations in the form of animals and spirits throughout the game’s five worlds. Also unique to TIMELAPSE is an "instant camera" feature that allows players to take photos of important clues throughout the game, thus eliminating the need to make detailed sketches or take extensive written notes.

Voice actors: Salvatore also helped us out with voice actor information, "We used twelve actors, and performers, including television actors, and two Shakespearian actors. The archaeologist's character needed to be likable, intelligent, but not be too brainy or smug, after all, the player is supposed to feel motivated to rescue him. The ethnic parts are played largely by actors with roots in those cultures, such as Native American, Egyptian, and Latin American. For the Atlanteans, we chose genuine Atlanteans, of course.

Music score: Salvatore said, "The music came from several sources, the bulk of which came from three composers. The Anasazi outdoor music was played by modern native Americans and was licensed for the game. The goal was to give the feeling of being in a world with music that fits the world and the situation. At the same time the music had to be loopable, yet not be annoying when repeated many times. The instruments in many of the musical pieces were professional quality electronic samples of the real instruments. Atlantis was one place where we had the freedom to play a wide variety of music, but it still had to feel high-brow, polished, airy, but not abstract... One hint of recognizable pop rhythm and there would go the illusion."

Sound effects: Salvatore says, "The sound effects come from a variety of sources, including professional sound effect libraries, custom recorded sounds from natural sources, modified natural sounds, and completely synthetic sounds born and raise din the digital realm. This leads on to ask questions like: Is that really a three-ton rock door closing, or is that a couple of walkway paving stones? Is that a crow, or a guy named Tim?" The sound effects include waves crashing on a shore and cats talking in meows.

Multi-player: Salvatore says, "TimeLapse is not a multiplayer game, unless one considers several people busily directing the actions of the mouse-handler a multi-player experience."

Hints: TIMELAPSE: The Official Strategy Guide from Prima Publishing is also being launched concurrently with the four CD-ROM game.

The future: Salvatore said, "To sum it up: TimeLapse 2: The HomeWorld. We intend to use an immersive technology, lots of live action, a rich plot with heart and purpose, bursting with adventure." Journalists: Julie feels that the plot is a good one but the development of it is weak. The game uses full motion video appearances of the archeologist to fill us in. Lisa feels the puzzles are meaningless, the gameplay linear, and the movement restricted.

The majority of the game play is conducted in solitude, like the original Myst. You wander an abandoned landscape devoid of people and human contact. They could have improved this by having others fill you in on what is happening in the game world at reguar intervals, like in RAMA.

Publish your own review right here. Email us your article. References:
Chris Hudak, http://www.gamespot.com/previews/timelaps/index.html
Al Giovetti, Welcome to the Future, Computer Player, 1996
Interview with Timelapse Co-Producer Salvatore Parascandolo Julie Gordon, Computer & Net Player, volume 3, number 10, March, 1997, pg. 68, 80%.
Lisa M. Howie, PC Gamer, volume 4, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 110-111, 60%.
Interview with Timelapse Producer Lori Nichols

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