I’ve been playing Singularity. It’s a fun enough game, and it’s got some neat little tricks to it. With a central conceit built around time travel, the game offers some interesting ways to fast forward and reverse time, although even these aren’t on the level of complexity as the last Ratchet and Clank game. Even through the whole story centers around shuffling back and forth between timelines, the weapons themselves feel mostly like cheap tricks rather than an integral part of the dramatic setting of the story. Hey, it’s a game, and when we’re playing most games, we overlook these things. So let me be clear: the complaints and observations that I’m about to make don’t mean that Singularity is a bad game. It is, however, emblematic of some standard tropes that I think are common artistic failings in many games.
So what is this cheap trick that I’m bitching about? Early in the game, you get a device that can manipulate time. At first, you can cause objects to transform between ruined and pristine states. For example, broken staircases mend and crushed boxes expand into non-crushed boxes. It’s a neat little effect, and it’s used in some clever puzzles, like putting a crushed box under a partially open shutter and making it whole so it acts as a jack, making room for you to crawl under. It’s also used for some silly puzzles, like “un-crushing” a box so that you can move it in place to hop up on a ledge that, really, you should just be able to clamber up onto—except you’re in an FPS. The core issue with this time control device is that it’s just not grand and sweeping enough. It doesn’t feel like it’s part of a world gone mad. Instead it’s just a gameplay tool. You can only use it on certain things in certain places. You can “un-decay” this chalkboard but not that desk. You can dissolve that piece of cover but not most of the walls in the game.