Inforgrames' Alone in the Dark was an important milestone in the history of gaming, but three years later, in 1995 the technology was looking stale. This was when Time Gate: Knight's Chase, their follow up, came to the market. It used the same engine which was showing signs of aging leaving consumers apathetic. In fact sales were so bad that the planned sequels were cancelled. Did it deserve better? Let's find out...
Instead of the horror that came before, Time Gate was instead a fantastic historical adventure using the Knight's Templar mythos as its backdrop. You are William Tibbs, an modern day American (well a mid-90s American) on a trip to Paris with a very interesting genealogy. His ancestors took part in the first World War, the Napoleonic War and the Knight's Templar (no, this is not Assassin's Creed). You don't find out any of this until you become entangled in a motivationaly ambiguous conspiracy.
Your girlfriend is kidnapped. Don't know how or why and I don't think even the game designers know, but either way it gives you motivation enough to do something. Like going to a museum. And that pretty much sums up the plot of the game. You do these things but they make little to no sense. Somehow you know this real-world Parisian museum holds the key, but you instead hang around after hours and faff about with remote control catapults. But then this is a game where a well will take you back to the dark ages and a magical horn turns you into a golden eagle warrior
You'll even be captured and imprisoned multiple times, but somehow this average Joe can escape anything. Maybe Houdini was in his past as well.
If you've played Alone in the Dark, the control scheme will seem very familiar. The slow tank controls are pretty much unchanged, along with all of the pitfalls it brings. The default stance is your fighting one, which isn't particularly helpful as you'll need it less than a dozen times over the course of your adventure. The rest of the time you'll need to be in search mode (or, occasionally the unnecessary push mode). While there's thankfully less of a focus on action, trying to pick up objects requires pixel-perfect precision. There are some moments where the solution to a puzzle is right in front of you but trying to accomplish it is a lesson in frustration. Alone in the Dark veterans will be well aware of this issue, but somehow it's more annoying here. This could be because the puzzle element of Time Gate has a far greater emphasis on items, something that the aging engine is not particularly good at. The inventory screen becomes a confusing mess later on in the game and considering the same screen is used to change your stances, you'll quickly tire of it..
I've covered a lot of these action-adventures on this site and the common theme running through all is that the control scheme holds it back. Time Gate has the added story problems that are little more than an excuse to explore a well-realised and atmospheric location. The medieval monastery which is mostly based on real-world architecture is what fascinates me most. The story may seem tacked on, but any excuse to explore the beautifully hand-drawn environments is OK by me.
Once you've got used to the controls it's not that hard either. The only times where I got truly stuck was down to the precision of the movements. The game contains traps and moving dangers that will test your skills, but for once the controls can be blamed for constant failure. My advise: save often, you'll need it.
I liked Time Gate a lot twenty years ago, but now I find its lustre to have dimmed somewhat. This is primarily down to the non-existent plot - something I now regard highly in games, no matter how it is told. Here, once you've entered the well there's nothing left to really tell. Even so, I am greatly saddened that the proposed trilogy didn't come into fruition. Maybe it would've kicked into gear in later installments putting everything here into context. As it is, the atmosphere of the location is all it has going for it. It's something, but not nearly enough for me to revisit it again in another twenty years.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Manual and Quick Reference Card included. Tested on Windows 7.
Time Gate: Knight's Chase is © Infogrames
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me