Review: Meet Me at Noon (PC)
Back to the future (and back again)
Quick tangent to start off. Any of you ever play Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time? I certainly hope so. It was bloody amazing, and I dedicated an entire section of a blockbuster feature to it to that effect. I bring this up because, during the portions of the game where you play as Clank, you dabble in some puzzles centered around that ever-unknowable frontier: time. The basic idea was that you could record Clank’s actions and then wind back the clock. This resulted in multiple ‘timelines’ where numerous Clanks are all dashing around at once, with you needing to use the movements of your past selves to navigate each chamber.
It was simple yet genius in its conceit, fourth-dimensional and utterly mindscrewing. Which is why I sat there as the credits rolled, thinking to myself “gee, it sure would be amazing if someone were to dedicate an entire puzzle game to this idea. It would, of course, have to present it in a way that is challenging but digestible to all, while maintaining the inherent existentialism. But alas, such games exist only in the realms of imagination.” Meet Me at Noon is that game.
Those in hourglass houses
Developed by Pandaroo Interactive, Meet Me at Noon initially starts off as a quirky but rudimentary little puzzler. You’re put in the shoes – or amorphous blob feet, I suppose – of the Day Spirit and Night Spirit. These two flask-looking dudes, who frankly wouldn’t appear too out of place strutting about in a Pokemon or Mario and Luigi title, make up two halves of an hourglass so perfectly shapen it’d make Hollywood’s female populace shudder with envy.
Your objective is to guide each spirit to their proper place on each map. There they may be joined together again where day and night meet. They’re… ahem, meeting at noon, if you will. At first, this is a basic matter of using the arrow keys to drop them onto their respective finishing tiles. Your moveset is purposely limited to directional inputs or instructing them to stay where they are. So if you need to get back up a ledge you’ve fallen off, tough luck.
Twists and turns
However, it’s when the vaunted time travel mechanic is introduced that things begin to tax the noggin. A timeline at the bottom of the screen, which alternates between night and day, allows you to program the movements of each spirit in advance. This means that, while Day is off toddling around, you might tell Night to drop onto his head or step into his path, to act as a bridge/stop him from wandering off a cliff. Complicating matters is the unique way each character moves. While Day will perform his commands in reverse once he gets to the end of a programmed pattern, Night will simply warp back to square one and repeat his ad nauseum. Head hurting yet?
As the levels progress, things get twistier and more elaborate in their design. An especially devious stage had me reverse engineering a scenario to prevent Day’s backward movement at the exact right moment using Night. Not ashamed to admit it took me a while. It’s honestly a rather difficult system to describe, though you pick it up quickly and begin to mesh with the logic the puzzles employ.
Aside from the basic objective in each stage, a bonus gold star is temptingly placed in an often-awkward spot for you to grab. You might be inclined to ignore these. That’s a bit of a mistake, as later levels start demanding you cough up a given quantity to progress. I’m never a fan of gating progress behind unlockables in modern games (especially in an otherwise gentle puzzler that’ll attract casual players such as this) and the same holds true for Meet Me at Noon. Those for whom simply beating the stage is satisfaction enough ought to take heed.
Presentation-wise, the game evokes the cozy atmosphere of Flash browser games of old, in the best possible way. The UI is simple, easy to find your way around. No game mode is more than a couple of clicks away. The visuals pop with colour. You’ll quickly begin to associate the warmer and cooler hues with the game nudging you in the direction of one spirit or the other. Likewise, the soothing melodies of the soundtrack act as a perfect counterpoint to the seething rage some of the harder stages will imbue in you. They knew what they were doing, those devilish buggers.
All told, Meet Me at Noon delivers precisely what it promises on the tin. The setup is cool, the execution is spot on, and technically I can’t fault it. It doesn’t quite kickstart the ‘time travel puzzler’ genre in the dramatic fashion I’d one day like to see. But for what it is, this is a perfectly charming, brain-teasing title with enough content to pass… oh, I don’t know, several hundred flips of an hourglass? See, this is why we switched to watches.
Meet Me at Noon is available now for PC. Review code kindly provided by Pandaroo.
All told, Meet Me at Noon delivers precisely what it promises on the tin. The setup is cool, the execution is spot on. This is a perfectly charming, brain-teasing title with enough content to pass several hundred flips of an hourglass.