If Only we Could Turn Back TIme
After declaring my love Portal 2 and naming it as my favourite game of all time earlier this year (see CrossCast Episode 71), it doesn’t take a genius to work out that The Entropy Centre, a first-person puzzle-based adventure featuring a time-bending gun, was going to be a game that would pique my interest.
There is no denying the similarities to the Portal series, however The Entropy Centre really delivers on its own merits. The Entropy Centre itself is a space-based research facility which aims to reverse cataclysmic events occurring on earth through the manipulation of time, using a device known as an Entropy Gun. When an event is successfully rewound, data is shared with Earth to prevent it from occurring in the first place – very Inception-esque.
On this occasion our main protagonist Aria, has awoken to find the centre abandoned and Earth in flames with no memory of what has occurred. Aria is a puzzle operative, whose day job is solving puzzles within the designated puzzle areas. Successful completion of puzzles ultimately fuels the Entropy Gun, allowing it to rewind the cataclysmic events that Earth faces. The story is told through the discovery of emails across various terminals that you access as you make your way through the centre.
After some initial exploration, Aria becomes acquainted with her main ally – Astra, a Personal Entropy Assistant (PEA) – a small Entropy Gun with a built-in voice assistant. Astra talks you through your journey, providing real-time information both orally and visually with the display panel of the gun displaying various emoji-like animations to mainly provide facial expressions. Of course, there are some sarcastic rounds of applause thrown in there for good measure. You can even give her a hat and sunglasses if you want to upgrade her style.
The PEA’s unique ability is being able to rewind time, which is the key to solving the puzzles presented. A game like this is only as good as its puzzles, and that is truly where it excels. For me it finds the perfect balance of challenge versus application.
There are 15 designated puzzle areas, each consisting of between 4 and 5 puzzles. These start off fairly simple, introducing the time-manipulating mechanic on some simple blocks with the complexity quickly building as new elements are introduced at the start of each area. Puzzle elements include jump cubes, laser cubes, rivers, wind turbines, object transformation gates and conveyor belts with each providing their own unique challenge.
My main concern was that the layering of elements would become overwhelming, however that fear was quickly allayed. There was just enough progression without it descending into chaos. The overall difficulty was challenging, but never felt unfair. Given I managed to complete all of the puzzles without the use of a guide, I’d say this is accessible for the masses – I’m definitely not a pro gamer!
Successfully completing puzzles is all about planning, assessing the objects at your disposal and understanding the end goal and working your way back from there. Understanding how to solve the puzzle is only half the battle, execution is an additional challenge with other factors at play, whether they be platforming elements or completion speed as there is only a limited amount of time that each object can be rewound. The sum of these parts equals an incredibly sweet feeling when you do succeed.
Puzzles aren’t the only area in which The Entropy Centre excels. The dystopian centre itself is beautifully presented and creates a tense atmosphere as you navigate your way between the puzzle areas and piece together the story. There is variety in those in-between sections including battling Entropy Workerbots, chase sequences or solving platforming related puzzles to reach different areas. These sections don’t overstay their welcome and provide a nice break from the puzzle solving.
For a game so heavily puzzle-oriented, I was surprised at how invested I became in the story. The relationships between characters felt genuine, and the little nuggets of information scattered throughout the world provided enough context to keep you guessing.
The biggest compliment I can pay The Entropy Centre is that by the end I was no longer thinking about it in comparison to Portal 2. It has done enough by itself to merit becoming one of my favourite games of 2022, providing creative and innovative puzzles that give a huge sense of satisfaction when you solve them. Another gem of the indie variety.