I knew Time Fcuk was after my one true heart on hearing the first few melancholic melodica triplets in its title screen theme, which are nothing if not lovingly lifted from Carter Burwell’s score for the Coen Bros.’ Fargo, and perfectly peg the pathos that begins to unfold as you start your cyclical descent into the game’s world.
Created by No Quarter, Super Meat Boy, and Aether designer Edmund McMillen, programmer William Good and musician Justin Karpel — and described only via cryptically impenetrable blurbs — at its core, Time Fcuk is a fairly straightforward game to describe: it’s a block/switch/key puzzler with a twist of inter-dimensional-spatial-chronological tearing that rips you through layers of the same room you occupy.
What sets it apart, though, is the tone McMillen has set via an in-game one-way communicator that sees an unidentified narrator constantly interrupting your thought processes with ranting inanities, cries for help, and, eventually, more deeply unsettling and I.D.-confusing asides. And there’s this matter of the small growth coming from the back of your head…
The effect, if that narrator is you — and it certainly looks like you — echoes movies like the previously big-upped Timecrimes or basically pick any of your favorite schizo-persona David Lynch movies from Twin Peaks to Lost Highway to Mulholland Drive.
By being forced into “the box” from which you spend the game trying to escape (which you were pushed into by someone who claims to be you from some 20 minutes in the future) you come to realize that the interruptions more likely are echoes of every iteration of a loop in which you’re stuck: ‘you’s that have been through multiple times and no longer fear your surroundings, newer ‘you’s that haven’t yet figured out what’s happening. In the meantime, you — the you that’s playing — are acting out that transition from confusion to confidence by learning the puzzle-tricks that get you from one room to the next.
All of this is subtle subtext, and that’s precisely what makes Time Fcuk so affecting. Add to that its expertly devised level editor — which takes a page from Echochome‘s book and gives players a 20-level loop of random player-creations to rate for difficulty and fun, so that essentially no puzzle goes un-played — and the gang of three have created what is easily one of the best Flash games of the year thus far.