If we had the opportunity to step inside a time machine then we’d probably hop a few days into the future and discover next week’s National Lottery numbers. Stranded: Mysteries of Time’s protagonist is a little more principled.
Dr Alex Howells may look like a WWE superstar after several months’ rigorous training in the gym, but he’s far from your stereotypical muscle-bound action hero. Howells is in possession of a vast intellect and during the course of this exciting escapade has ample opportunity to exercise it.
You see, Howells is working in a research facility on a remote island and one day finds his world shattered by the arrival of a crusty old professor and his latest crackpot invention: a machine capable of bending the laws of time and space.
Before long, Howells is unwittingly drawn into a conspiracy that threatens the very existence of mankind itself, and our muscular hero soon finds himself flitting between the past, present and future in order to save his friends and avert a global catastrophe.
During his travels, Howells will encounter all manner of vile beasts, with dinosaurs being perhaps the most worrying. Thankfully he’s packing firepower in the shape of his trusty tranquiliser rifle, which he can use to subdue the prehistoric aggressors.
While Glu is keen to stress that no prior knowledge of the series is required to enjoy this sequel, if you’ve experienced the previous Stranded title then you’ll spot familiar gameplay elements.
For example, Howells is able to fish and plant seeds, as well as cut down trees to acquire wood (despite the time machine being a cutting-edge piece of technology, it’s powered by logs). There’s a pretty diverse range of items to collect throughout all of the different time zones and the manner in which an item from one era can have a positive effect in another time period is nicely handled.
We also liked the revamped day and night cycle, which is manifested by the screen dimming during the wee hours. This naturally has implications on the gameplay so the developer has wisely included the option to take a nap, thus propelling the in-game time forward by 12 hours.
Taking these sizeable differences into account it’s clear that this is a very dissimilar beast to the original Stranded title, despite the common theme of being stuck on an island.
The setting is more epic in scope, although it has to be said that in giving the game a more dramatic storyline the developer has sacrificed a lot of the charm that made the original so appealing.
Mysteries of Time is less about survival in the wild and more about uncovering sinister plots, and as a result it loses that unique feel. The plot takes centre stage and the urge to wander off and do your own thing (an element that made the original game feel so wonderfully non-linear) is missing.
Visually, Mysteries of Time is a massive improvement over the first title. The version we reviewed is presented in 3D, and each environment is vast and highly detailed. The only problem is that the frame rate chugs along painfully when there are several characters on screen at once, and even during relatively quiet periods it can be far from smooth.
Despite these shortcomings, Mysteries of Time remains a worthy sequel to one of our favourite mobile adventure games.
While the grander plotline has resulted in a less engaging experience, Glu’s adventure is likely to ensnare mobile explorers for a good few hours at least. However, there’s no escaping the fact that it remains second-best to its illustrious predecessor.