Hourglass | PS5 Review
Developed by Cyberwave and published by Secret Item Games, Hourglass is a puzzle game where you manipulate time, creating clones of yourself to solve the puzzles set out before you. It is currently available on Windows PC, PlayStation, XBox, and Nintendo Switch, and for the purpose of my review I was playing the PlayStation 5 version.
In Hourglass, you take on the role of Aywa who is a budding adventurer travelling her way through Egypt in search of her father, an archaeologist, who failed to return from his latest expedition. To get to your dad, you have to navigate your way through pyramids, where you have to solve the puzzles to progress through them. Hourglass did a stellar job of introducing new ideas and concepts into the game gradually and not overwhelming the player with countless text boxes and tutorial reminders; instead, the gameplay simply teaches you by doing. Initially, you’ll simply have to power up doors using boxes found, but very quickly you’ll be introduced to special portals that allow you to record your actions. Essentially, you walk through the portal where you’ll create an alternate version of yourself. You can then carry out whatever action you need and once the recording is complete it’ll then happen in real time alongside the present time. I like to keep my reviews spoiler free, so I’ll not give any examples of the puzzles, but I felt like the puzzles got really clever, really quickly. Often, I’d find myself knowing what I had to do, but not quite being able to fathom how to use the mechanics to achieve said thing. Sometimes I’d find myself just staring at a puzzle; perhaps hoping that by staring at it for long enough, it would solve itself.
Aside from the excellent puzzling, we’re taken through a stunning adventure in terms of visuals. As you explore through Ancient Egypt, you’ll find stories being told via carvings on rock faces, statues and structures. The bulk of the lore and exposition will be provided by being observant of the surroundings, rather than text heavy portions or segments with long-winded dialogues. Hourglass did an excellent job of not being too imposing with anything and instead left a lot of the discovery up to the player to find off their own back, and I really appreciate the “show don’t tell” style approach.
I’ve said this before, but it's particularly applicable here; the best puzzle games use one or two very simple core mechanics, and they use these mechanics in the most creative ways - Hourglass achieves this in absolutely glorious fashion. The puzzles constantly get more difficult and more challenging; but still only use the same core mechanics and forcing the player to adapt their mindset to figure out the new ways that the mechanics are used.
Hourglass challenged me in ways that I didn’t expect. It’s certainly a mind-boggler in places and certainly provides a challenge, but even within the challenge, the game makes sense. I never found myself struggling to comprehend the whys, only the hows. Fans of puzzle games will feel charmed by Hourglass, and I believe many will be impressed at the quality of the puzzles provided throughout.
Lj’s Rating: 5 mind-boggling moments out of 5.
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Many thanks to Secret Item Games for the Review Key.