A few years ago I ran into the Cursor*10 game online. The whole idea of using time travel as a gameplay element appeared at first to be quite new and interesting. Not since figuring out what a RTS was, by playing Dune 2 on my Amiga 500 have I seen a whole new genre of game mechanics. At least, so I thought.
For those who have not yet tried Cursor*10, the idea is to get to the 16th floor by clicking stairs. You have about 10-15 seconds. But once you reach floor 8 (see picture above), you realize that the game is not that easy. Here you have a button you need to hold down in order for the next stair to appear. But how can you both hold down the button and simultaneously click the stairway? This is where the time travel comes into play. Once your time runs out, you start over on the first floor. But the movements and clicks you just made with your first try are repeated by a ghost cursor. The illusion is that you have traveled back in time to the start of the game, but now there are two instances of you.
If you, with the first instance of your cursor, go to the 8th floor and hold down the button for the remainder of the time, this first cursor will then repeat the exact same movements while your second cursor gets to use the stair. Easy! In total you get 10 cursors (hence the name of the game), and you are going to need them. The hardcore version of the game requires you to click a lot of items on each level in order to reach the maximum amount of points. For the lazy people, here is a video of the solution. For the cheaters, here is one using the tabulator key to select items in flash instead of clicking on them.
The time travel feature used in Cursor*10 is called chronocloning in Achron, a newer RTS featuring extensive time traveling. In this RTS, you are not only playing on a normal map with only spatial dimensions, but you are also utilizing the temporal dimension. You can travel back or forward in time, and give your units orders or cancel earlier orders. I have not yet tried the game, but I think that the mechanics are going to need a bit of getting used to. With proper chronocloning, you can take a single unit and send it back in time several times, so at one point on the timeline, the same unit will be present multiple times. That is what I call a one-man army. The Wikipedia article gives a very good overview of how the game works, but to get a quick grasp of it, there are several videos at Youtube.
Looking again at Wikipedia, there is a nice list of games featuring time travel as a gameplay element. Looking through it, I find that an old favorite adventure game Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle is on there. Of course that counts as a game featuring time travel as a gameplay element, how could one forget such a wonderful game?
Speaking of adventure games, the genre has recently been revived a bit, now with ports of the first two Monkey Island games to the Xbox360. Yes, I bought them. Yes, I played them. Yes, I even played them again with the old graphics, just for the sake of it. Really nice to have speech on the games after so long time. Also, check out Telltale Games, they have made quite a few adventure games lately. They even have some of the same people on board who made the golden age adventure games. If nothing else, just buy something from them to enjoy their down-to-earth webshop process. A quick teaser: The mail you get when you buy something from them contains the following words: “We love you! Why? Because you bought some stuff!” .. “Now you are our favorite. Don’t tell the others!”.
Back to games with timetravel in them. Go play Chronotron, now!